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Lando Norris responds to accusation he is playing "mind games" with Daniel Ricciardo

Lando Norris baulked at the suggestion he has been playing mind games with Daniel Ricciardo and insists he has done nothing but try to help his McLaren team-mate.

Ricciardo took a risk by defecting from Renault, for the start for the 2021 season, but things have not gone to plan. Notwithstanding his win at Monza last year, he has failed to find any real form and struggled to adapt to McLaren's tricky-to-drive cars.

His results compared to Norris paint a picture of a dire situation. This season, the Brit has 70 points and has still impressed even when the team has struggled, but Ricciardo is 51 points behind his team-mate and has also been outshone in qualifying.

Norris has regularly been asked about the Australian's plight, and he has tried to offer comfort in the past such as when he explained how tricky the MCL36 is to drive. And he recently responded defensively when asked if he has been playing mind games with the former Red Bull star.

"In what way? What mind games can I play? No, it's the opposite. I'm trying to help him as much as I can," he said. "It's for the benefit of us as a team to try to beat Alpine, at the end of the day. He sees everything I see in terms of data and everything. I'm offering more help than I normally would, let's say.

"If you were fighting for a world championship, I'm saying more things than I would do just because that's what we need for the team. That's what I want for the team at the minute. No, it's the opposite of mind games, whatever that is – mind soothing."

Ricciardo is in the middle of an intense situation at McLaren (Getty Images)

Ricciardo is contracted until the end of 2023, but it seems unlikely he will remain with McLaren for that long. The team wants to bring in Oscar Piastri to replace him, though Alpine feel like they have a valid contract to make the F2 champion their driver next season.

The 33-year-old is believed to be open to quitting McLaren a year early, though he wants a huge pay-off to agree to do so. He has started with a demand of around £12m, and is expected to have no shortage of suitors should he become available.

At least four different teams have contacted him in recent weeks to explore a potential move. One of them is Alpine, who would be willing to forget the fact the Aussie left them two years ago and could welcome him back with open arms if they lose their fight to keep hold of Piastri.

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