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Catching up with Formula One: Imola

Written by Sofia Costantino, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri


What a race weekend we had last time out! Not only did we see a new Formula One race winner, but an unbelievable race too. The recently contested Miami Formula One Grand Prix, was  the sixth Grand Prix of 2024 season, and it ended with the victory of Lando Norris taking victory in the upgraded McLaren MCL38.

  

It was his long-awaited first win for the Briton in the top category of world motorsport, on the verge of achieving it in Sochi (Russia) 2021, when a downpour in the final stages deprived him of the possibility of a very probable win. 


His 15 podiums and nine-second places were signs which simply anticipated this result, for which he needed 110 GP (124 attempts, adding Sprint races), to become the 114th (104 if you exclude the 10 drivers who won the Indianapolis 500, part of the F1 calendar between 1950 and 1960) driver to win a Formula One race.


Image credits: Motosport images

He joins the most recent and active race winners such as George Russell at Interlagos, and Carlos Sainz at Silverstone in 2022; Esteban Ocon for Alpine at Hungaroring back in 2021; Sergio Perez for Racing Point at Sakhir, and Pierre Gasly’s emotional victory for AlphaTauri at Monza, both in 2020. 


From the previous decade, Charles Leclerc for Ferrari at Spa; Valtteri Bottas for Mercedes at Sochi in 2017; Max Verstappen becoming the youngest driver to win a Formula One race, for Red Bull, at Barcelona in 2016, and finally, Daniel Ricciardo winning for Red Bull in Montreal two years prior. This completes 10 new winners across eight of the last 11 campaigns.


For the McLaren team, whose eponymous founder Bruce McLaren took the team’s first win at Spa-Francorchamps in 1968, it marked the 184th victory overall(only behind Ferrari with 244), but only the second in the past 12 years, since Jenson Button's victory at Interlagos 2012.


Image credits: Motosport images

The uptick in form for the papaya team has been visible since the middle of last season, after an uncertain start under the new regulations introduced in 2022. 


Starting from the Austrian Grand Prix, the ninth of 22 races in 2023, thanks to the successful innovations introduced to their McLarens, the team managed to secure 11 podiums, while Australian rookie Oscar Piastri achieved a victory in the Sprint race in Qatar. Finally, Lando Norris, hailing from Glastonbury in the South West of England, achieved victory in the Miami Grand Prix. 


Nor is the presence of the new Team Principal Andrea Stella a coincidence. Having graduated as an aerospace engineer at the La Sapienza University of Rome, he was a race engineer at Ferrari for Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso, whom he followed at McLaren, slowly ascending the ladder to his now well-deserved position.


As is usual with a first-time winner in F1, the triumph is genuinely celebrated by all in the Formula One Paddock. Even more, when it comes to a popular character, loved by the whole community, even by his peers and former teammates, such as Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren itself, who were quick to congratulate the Briton. 


Image credits: Motosport images

His victory was definitely aided by the arrival of the safety car in the middle of the scheduled laps on lap 28 of 57, when he had not yet entered the pits to change tyres and thus was able to keep the first place because the others had already done so. 


Had he pitted any later, he would have finished fifth behind Verstappen, Leclerc, Perez and Sainz, making a comeback to first place more difficult. However, the pace and lap times achieved were the same or even better than those of Verstappen, who ended up 7.6 seconds behind the eventual race winner. 


Therefore, a worthy winner in a GP where McLaren brought such an extensive package of modifications to its car, that some identify as a B-Spec MCL38, despite Piastri receiving only half of the upgrade package. Thanks to the Miami Grand Prix, many returned home happy. 


While McLaren got their upgrade package spot on and enjoyed the fruits of their success, their long time rivals and friends Ferrari are aiming for the same pattern and result, with a raft of upgrades planned for their first home race of two in 2024, in Imola. Should they get it right, things can get very interesting at the top half of the grid.


Image credits: Motosport images

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