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Lando Norris conquers Miami Grand Prix for 1st career F1 victory

Lando Norris should take a lesson from his last big party perhaps tone down the celebration for his first career Formula 1 victory.

His reaction following the Sunday victory in the Miami Grand Prix showed the British driver probably doesn’t plan to miss a beat.

Norris won in his 110th career start after a mistake by Max Verstappen ended Verstappen’s dominance at the circuit in the parking lot surrounding Hard Rock Stadium. The 24-year-old driver sprinted down pit lane to leap into the arms of his McLaren crew, which crowd surfed Norris until he finally got to boss Zak Brown, who wrapped Norris in a bearhug.

Norris arrived in Miami with a bandage covering stitches on his nose from a cut received by broken glass while he was in Amsterdam following F1’s last outing. Norris was celebrating King’s Day with DJ Martin Garrix when he cut his nose.

“I’m just really proud. A lot of people, I guess, doubted me along the way,” Norris said. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes over my last five years, my short career, but today we put it all together so this is all for the team. I started with McLaren because I believe in them and today proved exactly that.”

Verstappen, who started from the pole and won Saturday’s sprint race, was out front when he hit a chicane and knocked a cone out of place on the circuit. It forced the three-time reigning F1 champion to pit and gave Norris the lead.

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Norris then controlled the race to give McLaren its first win since a Daniel Ricciardo victory in 2021. Ricciardo was among the handful of drivers who found Norris for a congratulatory hug following the race.

Norris is the second British driver in F1 history to be feted on the podium by “God Save the King.” George Russell in 2022 is the only other British driver to win outside of Queen Elizabeth’s reign; Russell’s victory in Brazil came two months after Queen Elizabeth’s death.

The song seemed to affect Norris, who closed his eyes as he turned his head to the sky with a huge grin on his face. When it came time for the champagne celebration, he was doused by runner-up Verstappen and third-place finisher Charles Leclerc, who sprayed the champagne directly into Norris’ eyes.

It took him a few minutes of wiping his eyes clear before he slammed his own champagne bottle to the ground to force it into a heavy stream he used to soak his McLaren team below the podium. He also tossed the winning trophy into the air, but caught it.

With about 10 laps to go, Norris realized the race was his to lose when his lead over Verstappen hit 5 seconds.

“Five seconds?” Norris radioed his team. “Am I alive?”

Indeed he was as an ecstatic McLaren squad celebrated a rare victory on a weekend in which it debuted significant upgrades on its two cars. McLaren now has 13 wins in races in the United States — tying a record with Ferrari — but it was the first on American soil since Lewis Hamilton at Circuit of the Americas in 2012.

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Norris’ final margin of victory was 7.6-seconds over Verstappen of Red Bull. Verstappen had been undefeated at Miami with wins in its first two races and the sprint race on Saturday.

‘I knew it when I came in this morning’

Norris said he knew when he entered the track Sunday morning that he’d end the day atop the podium.

“Finally. I am so happy. I knew it. I knew it when I came in this morning,” Norris said. “And I nailed it.”

McLaren has now won an F1, Formula E and IndyCar race in the past two months. Norris is the first driver since Carlos Sainz Jr. to beat Verstappen this season — and Verstappen was eliminated from that race in Melbourne with a mechanical failure.

“You win. You lose. I think we’re all a bit used to that in racing,” Verstappen said. “Is a bad day P2? I will take it. I am happy for Lando, it’s been a long time coming and there’s more to come from him.”

McLaren before the start of the race hosted former President Donald Trump, who chatted with F1 officials from inside the McLaren garage. When he made his way toward the starting grid, fans began chanting “USA! USA!” and Trump pumped his fist in approval.

Ferrari drivers Leclerc and Sainz finished third and fourth and were followed by Sergio Perez of Red Bull.

Hamilton was sixth for Mercedes, Yuki Tsunoda of Red Bull’s junior team was seventh and Russell was eighth for Mercedes. Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin and Esteban Ocon of Alpine rounded out the top 10. Ocon did it with team investors Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs in attendance.

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About halfway through the race, Logan Sargeant crashed and brought out the safety car that forced the Pompano Beach native out of his car. The 23-year-old and only American driver on the F1 grid is clinging to his seat with Williams as speculation is rampant he could be replaced before the end of his second season.

It marked Sargeant’s second consecutive last-place finish at his home race.

The Sargeant crash handed control of race strategy to McLaren, who held the lead with Norris at the time of the caution. Norris had taken over the lead when Verstappen was forced to pit from the lead after hitting a chicane that knocked a cone onto the racing surface.

As Red Bull was looking for any damage to Verstappen’s front wing, a race marshal entered the circuit and scooped up the cone as F1 avoided having to use the safety car for the incident. But just moments later, Kevin Magnussen made contact with Sargeant and it gave McLaren the chance to strategize a victory over Verstappen.

For Magnussen, it marked another bad day in a long weekend in which the Haas driver was accused of unsportsmanlike conduct for his strategy in Saturday’s sprint race.

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