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Never mind the bollards. Whether or not you believe Lando Norris won the Miami Grand Prix as a result of Red Bull making a rare mistake on car setup (Max Verstappen’s view), Max incurring considerable floor damage by taking out a bollard at the chicane on lap 22 (the Red Bull team boss’s view), the Safety Car briefly picking up Max rather than Lando (toxic fandom’s view), or indeed Donald Trump taking a short break from falling asleep and breaking wind in court to act as a “lucky charm” in the McLaren garage (Donald J Trump’s view), F1’s trip to Florida delivered ample proof that, given the right circumstances, Red Bull
and Max can be beaten.

A race in which uncertainty prevailed all the
way through the order, rather than in the wake
of a runaway leader, was exactly what Formula 1 needed after several months in which the off-track machinations offered considerably more by way
of intrigue than the matters arising between 
lights-out and the chequered flag.

Whether this state of affairs continues depends very much on what Ferrari and McLaren bring to the table in the coming months. In Miami, McLaren applied its first substantial upgrade package of the year to Norris’s car. Throughout the grand prix Norris demonstrated that he had the pace to challenge Verstappen, even without the assistance of floor damage and a conveniently timed Safety Car. How much of this came through performance unlocked through car upgrades is difficult to tell on a rear-limited outlier circuit where tyre management is even more crucial than usual.

The true trajectory of McLaren’s development arc will become evident in the races to come. Ferrari also has a significant update coming but, at the time of writing, its ETA is uncertain… and on previous form, its effectiveness may be open to question.

As Andrew Benson writes in our cover feature this month (see p36), Ferrari has made great strides under Frédéric Vasseur’s leadership, beginning this season second-fastest to Red Bull. The question now is where it goes from here. Vasseur says the improvement is largely a result of developing a culture of accepting that greater rewards arrive from taking bigger risks, and being comfortable with pursuing that course.

In the short run Red Bull still has the best driver in the fastest car – which means, all other factors being equal, it will continue to dominate. But some factors are more equal than others. As tech talisman Adrian Newey transfers to the RB17 billionaires’ toy project prior to leaving, Red Bull is quietly scrabbling to prevent an exodus of other top personnel. 2024’s titles may be well on their way to being settled but, if the brain drain continues, 2025 (let alone 2026) could be a different matter.

Inside the issue

This month's features include

Ferrari’s fightback
Is the Scuderia ready to challenge or is it just another false dawn?

In conversation with…
Ferrari’s Frédéric Vasseur

Mercedes in a mess
F1’s once-dominant team looks set for another bad season

Fernando Alonso
Why F1’s elder stateman chose to extend his Aston contract

Now That Was A Car
The Cooper T53, the car Jack Brabham used for his second title

Record takers
A look at one of the FIA’s valuable document archives

Money and McLaren
How McLaren managed to turn
its ailing finances around

A race weekend with...
Haas team manager Peter Crolla

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