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Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix 2024

The data that tells the true story behind Norris’ victory over Verstappen

Lando Norris' dreams came true last weekend at the Miami Grand Prix, but would he have claimed his maiden victory had the safety car never showed?

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Analysis
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

On his 110th F1 start, Lando Norris finally become a race winner last weekend in the Miami Grand Prix, bringing to an end his unwanted record of having never secured an F1 victory.

Everything, including some luck, fell into place for the McLaren driver, who remained calm in the opening stages and after the safety car phase pulled off the win handsomely. Not even Max Verstappen could do anything about the British driver.

The reigning world champion struggled with the balance of his RB20 and also suffered damage from a rare mistake. Verstappen hit a bollard on Lap 22, causing significant floor damage.

But was the safety car crucial to Norris' victory? It has to be said: Norris did get lucky. Luck is part of motor racing at the end of the day, with the Briton having capitalised on the safety car to make his only pit-stop of the race.

Courtesy of a cheap pit-stop as everyone behind, including Verstappen, stopped prior to the safety car, Norris retained first place, had the tyre advantage over Red Bull's lead driver and was unchallenged to victory.

But that's not the whole story. In fact, Norris was faster than Verstappen the entire race, even on old medium tyres before his pit-stop. Verstappen was brought in earlier by Red Bull and could not keep up with Norris' pace even on fresh hard tyres.

The difference between the two drivers was 11 seconds before the safety car and thus remained the same for laps. Verstappen needed free air to built this early lead, as Norris was stuck behind Sergio Perez in the opening stages.

Overtaking is difficult at the Miami International Autodrome, so Norris could not immediately put his fantastic speed to use. When Perez came in on Lap 19, Norris was flying around the track. This is well reflected in the table below.

View the lap times of Verstappen and Norris below. The text continues below the table. These are the final laps before Norris' pit stop. Verstappen came in on lap 24 after a short virtual safety car.

Lap times Verstappen vs Norris before the safety car

Lap VER NOR
19 1:32.668 1:32.476
20 1:32.530 1:32.421
21 1:32.926 1:32.329
22 1:32.906 1:32.517
23 1:51.938 1:46.891
24 1:47.087 1:31.982
25 1:32.298 1:32.171
26 1:32.410 1:32.153
27 1:32.515 1:32.162
28 1:39.376 1:32.042

Overtaking

If there had been no safety car situation, Norris would not have held the lead after his pit-stop. The Briton would then have had a lot of work to do to still claim victory, especially since he had a lot of trouble overtaking. The real question would have been whether he could still threaten Verstappen.

Why? Because Norris was three-tenths faster on average per lap in the final stint and drove a total of seven seconds away from Verstappen. Whether Norris' speed would have been enough is uncertain.

A regular pit stop takes more than twenty seconds and Norris would have had to overtake Charles Leclerc, who was right behind Verstappen. Although Norris' tyres would have been significantly fresher.

Ultimately, it does not matter, the safety car was triggered and Norris made the most of it. Norris took advantage and drove a hell of a last stint to claim victory. Even without a safety car, he probably would have come very close to snatching victory from Verstappen.

Scenarios are there to be played out, although we will never know if there would have been a battle between Norris and Verstappen without the safety car. Or as Verstappen so eloquently said afterwards: "If my mother had balls, she would have been my father."

The fact is that Norris was by far the fastest driver on the track and deserved the win. Will we get to see a great battle between Red Bull and McLaren from now on?

View below the lap times of Verstappen and Norris in the final stint.

Lap times Verstappen vs. Norris after the safety car

Lap VER NOR
33 1:32.227 1:31.157
34 1:31.611 1:31.289
35 1:31.409 1:31.391
36 1:31.456 1:31.133
37 1:31.377 1:31.074
38 1:31.526 1:31.134
39 1:31.336 1:31.192
40 1:31.487 1:31.222
41 1:31.375 1:31.059
42 1:31.455 1:31.340
43 1:31.435 1:31.066
44 1:31.452 1:31.180
45 1:31.537 1:31.068
46 1:31.788 1:31.352
47 1:31.513 1:31.423
48 1:31.261 1:31.135
49 1:31.597 1:31.177
50 1:31.338 1:31.227
51 1:31.284 1:31.080
52 1:31.428 1:31.244
53 1:31.473 1:31.251
54 1:31.546 1:31.276
55 1:31.408 1:30.980
56 1:31.490 1:31.040
57 1:31.699 1:31.575

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