Lando Norris gives backing to ‘proven’ Daniel Ricciardo as McLaren axe looms

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LANDO NORRIS has supported team-mate Daniel Ricciardo as his McLaren future remains uncertain.

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Lando Norris has given his backing to team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, insisting the under-fire Australian has “proven” how quick he is in his Formula 1 career. The McLaren star is facing the axe at the end of the 2022 season after a disappointing year with the team, amid reports they have already found his replacement.

Norris has worked his way up to becoming McLaren’s star of the future after joining the team at the age of 19. He is now widely viewed as the team’s first driver as his performances have eclipsed Riccardo’s on track, leaving the former Red Bull driver in his wake.

While Ricciardo has remained publicly committed to the team despite speculation regarding his future, he looks set to be replaced by Oscar Piastri for 2023. It is understood the 21-year-old Alpine reserve has already signed a contract to race alongside Norris after insisting he will not drive with Alpine next year, with Ricciardo set to earn a huge pay-off to leave the team.

But British-Belgian driver Norris, who is under contract until 2025, feels that Ricciardo has the pace and experience of winning races to prove his critics wrong — with the 32-year-old earning McLaren their first race victory in a decade at Monza last year.

READ MORE: Ricciardo shown support as Harry Styles dons t-shirt

Lando Norris gives backing to 'proven' Daniel Ricciardo as McLaren axe looms

Lando Norris: The McLaren star has given his backing to Daniel Ricciardo (Image: Getty Images/Express Sport)

“I mean I think he’s proven in his career how quick he is,” Norris told the F1 Beyond the Grid Podcast. “Before and when joined Red Bull, the wins he did, he never won a boring race, I think he won the exciting ones and did it in style, [he] proved many times [how quick he is].

“In Monaco, when he had to deliver in qualifying and stuff like that, he showed he could do exactly that [win races]. I think everyone knows how good he is and what he can achieve.”

Ricciardo finished behind Norris in 2021 in the Drivers’ Championship after replacing Carlos Sainz in the team. But he gradually improved his results as the season went on and pipped his team-mate to the win in Monza as McLaren brought home a 1-2 finish.

However, he has struggled to build on that momentum in 2022 after collecting just 19 points and only one top-six finish, leading CEO Zak Brown to question if the driver — who earns an estimated £12million-a-year — is good enough to justify a seat with the Woking-based manufacturer.

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Lando Norris gives backing to 'proven' Daniel Ricciardo as McLaren axe looms

Daniel Ricciardo: The Australian is expected to be axed by McLaren for 2023 (Image: Getty Images)

As a contrast, Norris has kept McLaren afloat in a difficult season for the team, picking up 76 points and a podium at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix in Imola as a measure of his extraordinary talent.

But the 23-year-old dismissed claims that McLaren have modelled the car around him — and even suggested it was more suited to Ricciardo’s driving style at the start of the year.

“We do drive in different ways and what we request on the car is quite different. People all think that he doesn’t suit the car and that I do suit the car, and the car is all made around me, but it couldn’t be more untrue,” he added.

“It’s not that I hate driving the car I’m driving now, but it’s very unsuited to my driving style. At the beginning of the year, it suited Daniel a lot more than it suited me in terms of how you had to drive it and that’s something I really struggled with at the beginning of the season.”

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