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Formula 1

Our verdict on Norris's shock first F1 win

5 min read

At the 110th attempt, Lando Norris is a grand prix winner.

It's been a long time coming and confirms a genuine step made by McLaren following the introduction of a significant F1 upgrade package at the Miami Grand Prix.

But how much of it was a fluke and down to race circumstances? Or was this a well-earned, well-executed win? And considering the pain of Norris's previous near-misses and the level he's been performing at in F1, do the circumstances of his first victory matter at all?

Here's what our writers think:

Good fortune doesn't detract from this at all

Scott Mitchell-Malm

Was there some fortune involved? Yes. So what? It was an outstanding victory. And he’s hardly the first F1 driver to have luck on his side when breaking his win duck in an era of someone else’s domination.

That victory still needed Norris to be at his best. A compromised first stint put him on the back foot but he managed to look after his tyres well, unleashed outstanding pace when in clear air, defended intelligently at the restart to secure the lead, then cashed in on the circumstances to bolt clear.

The safety car was a big factor, clearly, as it gained him vital positions. And Verstappen was ailing. But Norris's pace at the end of the first stint was changing his race and what happened after the restart shows the advantage he’d have had on Verstappen.

He was assisted but also quick. And deserved it. So I hope people just enjoy this for what it is as it shouldn’t be a win with an asterisk against it.

Judge this on Norris's final stint

Gary Anderson

It’s always difficult to guess at what might have been if 'X' had or hadn't happened.

What did happen was that the McLarens were as fast as anyone in race trim and to be honest we could have seen two of them on the podium. But that will come to McLaren. The impressive thing is that when it brings updates to the car they work, so that shows it is in a position to challenge the ‘big boys’ at most tracks.

Did Norris win because of an FIA screw-up with the placing of the safety car after Sargent and Magnussen came together? Possibly, but McLaren ran long on the first stint and opened up that opportunity.

However, I think we need to judge his race from the restart after the safety car came in. From then there was something like 25 laps to go and Norris pulled out in excess of a seven-second lead over Verstappen in a Red Bull. That is something that hasn’t happened in a long time.

A feel-good moment for F1

Glenn Freeman

This won't be remembered as a race win earned through a fortunately timed safety car. Norris's pace before and after that moment of right place, right time will make sure of that.

It's not a lucky win if you pull seven seconds on Verstappen in a straight fight. There was so much of the race remaining when the safety car came in, that if Norris only had luck on his side, it would have run out before the end.

And besides, McLaren made its own luck by going long strategy-wise, something it was able to do because of the pace in the car and its driver.

The other striking thing about this win was how popular it was with the other drivers. Seeing so many of them seek Norris out to congratulate him was a brilliant feel-good moment for F1.

First win speaks to McLaren's strong management

Samarth Kanal

Norris’s first F1 win came with some good fortune - a well-timed safety car - but he made his own luck with some rapid laps at the end of his first stint, and some fast laps after that pivotal safety car restart.

However, this win also speaks to McLaren’s management over the last few seasons. In 2022, McLaren lost out to Alpine in the constructors’ championship and the team endured a poor start to 2023; in Miami last year, it was arguably the slowest team of all.

But it rallied to eventually beat Aston Martin to fourth place in the constructors’ championship standings and now it is a regular podium contender. This win shows just how far McLaren has come - and it’s a journey that starkly contrasts with those of Alpine and Mercedes.

Alpine has struggled in particular, with Miami being its first points-scoring grand prix of the 2024 season. A long line of leadership changes has exposed the Enstone team’s mismanagement. Mercedes meanwhile has fallen well short of being the championship-contending outfit it is expected to be and continued efforts to improve its W15 have yielded little in the way of results.

Two years ago, few would have predicted that McLaren would be back on the top step so soon - and none would have predicted that its management and leadership would prove exemplary by the middle of 2024.

This win changes nothing

Jack Benyon

We're in uncharted territory for Norris because no driver has been as good as he has been and waited as long for a win.

All this win does is end the predictable narrative/line of questioning of 'when will Lando win a race?'.

In terms of what it means for him and those around him, of course they will celebrate this victory and all that it means for him, his family and backers, but ultimately it means little for how we should think about him as an F1 driver.

We already knew Lando Norris was good enough to win races and it was a matter of ill-fortune and circumstance that meant it hadn't happened. He was already of race-winning calibre, so nothing has really changed.

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