McLaren driver Lando Norris has insisted he is not playing mind games with Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo as he continues to struggle in his second F1 season with the team.
Ricciardo has just 19 points to his name so far this season, miles behind Norris as McLaren look to get on top of their constructors battle with Alpine.
The pressure will be well and truly on Ricciardo when the F1 season resumes for the Belgian GP later in August, as rumours swirl around his future in F1.
Despite being under contract for the 2023 season with McLaren, Ricciardo could have a fight on his hands to keep his seat with countryman Oscar Piastri eyeing a place with the team.
Piastri could face a fight of his own, albeit a legal one, with Alpine adamant they had signed the highly-rated 21-year-old for 2023.
For now, Ricciardo simply needs to put more points on the board.
Alpine's Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon have proven so far this season to be a more reliable point-scoring duo, with Norris scoring the lion's share of McLaren's points.
The British driver said there were no mind games being played in the McLaren garage as the team's focus shifts towards outgunning Alpine for fourth in the constructors championship.
“What mind games can I play? No, it’s the opposite. I’m trying to help him as much as I can. It’s for the benefit of us as a team, to try and beat Alpine at the end of the day," Norris said.
“[Ricciardo] sees everything that I see in terms of data and everything. I’m offering more help than what I normally would, let’s say.
"If we were fighting for a world championship, I’m saying more things than maybe what I would do. That’s what we need for the team, it’s what I want for the team at the minute.
"So yeah, the opposite of mind games, whatever that is – mind soothing!”
Norris has lead the way for McLaren since Ricciardo joined the team from Renault ahead of the 2021 season.
Though Ricciardo scored McLaren's first race win in nearly a decade at the Italian GP last year, it has been Norris who has shown more pace throughout.
Daniel Ricciardo facing F1 threat from fellow Aussie Oscar Piastri
Rising star Oscar Piastri and his manager - Australian former F1 racer Mark Webber - have reportedly arranged a deal with McLaren to allow the 21-year-old to get his break in the championship next year.
This is despite Renault-owned Alpine announcing Piastri as part of the French team's 2023 driver line-up on Tuesday in the wake of Fernando Alonso's shock decision to join Aston Martin on a multi-year deal at the end of the season.
In an embarrassing moment for Alpine, Piastri took to social media to refute the team's statement that he would be part of their plans next year.
"I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year," Piastri said via his Twitter page.
"This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.
Having won the Formula Three and Formula Two championships in back-to-back campaigns, Piastri's potential has made him hot property on the F1 circuit.
The Melbourne-born driver has spent 2022 as a reserve driver for Alpine but if the rumours he's set to join McLaren are correct, it would have a knock-on effect for Ricciardo.
The West Australian has already indicated he intends to see out his contract with McLaren and has no intention of leaving the team but may find himself with a decision to make if it's clear his team would prefer Piastri on the grid next year.
Alpine meanwhile are standing firm, with team principal Otmar Szafnauer telling reporters they believe they have a legally-binding deal with Piastri for at least 2023 and possibly 2024.
"I'm not privy to whatever pre-arrangements he has with McLaren, if any at all," Szadnauer said.
"What I do know is that he does have contractual obligations to us. And we do to him.
"Those obligations last through '23, and possibly in '24, if some options are taken up."
Neither McLaren nor Piastri's management have spoken on the dispute, which could land at the desk of F1's contracts recognition board - a body which settles disputes between teams over drivers.
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