Formula 1: Lando Norris laughs away Helmut Marko conspiracy claims

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Chief Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind.

Recently, it was a set of comments over Saturday's qualifying in Portugal that got McLaren ace, Lando Norris smirking.

Austrian Marko is in charge of the hiring and firing of the Red Bull academy drivers and over the years the likes of Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat have all been on the other end of his ruthless manner.

Obviously, he just wants the very best for his Red Bull team and with things so tight with Mercedes this year, he's eager to ensure any advantage is taken and any disadvantage is avoided or at least brought to light and scrutinsed.

Indeed, with that latter point in mind, Marko took exception to Norris' engineer telling him to not make life easy for Max Verstappen, who was approaching on a flying lap - suggesting that he would try and spoil the Dutchman's run in Saturday's qualifying session.

Of course, that would have been immediately punished by the stewards and Norris, in fairness, opted against courting such controversy by keeping well clear, though Marko still suggested that McLaren, now possessing Mercedes power, were perhaps looking to aid the Silver Arrows in their quest for pole on Saturday.

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Tin foil hat stuff, perhaps, and Norris took it all with a pinch of salt.

Later on, the in-form McLaren driver told the press:

“I saw these comments, I found them pretty funny. For some reason, he blamed it on Mercedes. So I've got no clue what he’s talking about. Why would Mercedes have anything to do with it?

“I think he was obviously a bit annoyed that a Mercedes qualified ahead of them. Any team boss isn’t going be happy with that.

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“I mean, Max didn’t lose the time in sector one or sector two, he messed it all up in sector three. So everyone went slower on the second stint apart from the people who went old new and that’s because the conditions got worse.

“So maybe they’ve just been blindsided, not looking at that. But yeah, I did nothing wrong.”

Norris is flying at the moment with a 4th, 3rd and 5th place in the opening three races and he sits third in the Drivers' standings.

A title challenge may well be beyond reach this year but he deserves enormous credit for his early performances and will be eager to try and upset Red Bull, and Mercedes, more this season if he can.

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