Lando Norris has made a point of recognising teammate Daniel Ricciardo's step forward at the Italian Grand Prix, explaining that the pair have "pushed each other a lot" throughout a competitive weekend for McLaren at Monza.
Ricciardo struggled to adapt to life at McLaren after joining the team for 2021 and Norris comfortably led their qualifying (8-3) and race (9-2) head-to-heads at the midway point of the season, with Norris also scoring more than double Ricciardo's points tally.
However, after positive signs in Belgium and the Netherlands, Ricciardo appears to have made further progress at Monza, where the Mercedes-powered McLarens are mixing it with frontrunners Mercedes and Red Bull.
Norris and Ricciardo were separated by just 0.006s in qualifying, as they secured fourth and fifth on the grid for F1's second Sprint Qualifying race, in which Ricciardo caught the eye with a strong start to jump up to third position.
Ricciardo will line up second on the grid for Sunday's Grand Prix, with Norris third, after Valtteri Bottas' engine-related grid penalties are applied, marking McLaren's best starting position as a team since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, where they locked out the front row.
"This weekend, from the beginning, [he's] been very good, and very competitive, so I think we've pushed each other a lot," Norris told Sky Sports.
"He's got one point for the team today, so I think that's still beneficial for us.
"We start in a good position tomorrow. It's also easier for me to just go around knowing he's there at the same time. It's not just that we have two cars up there, we can use it strategically, to hold off other people, or attack other people and so on.
"It's good for him and I think he deserves today. He's been driving well this weekend."
Norris admitted he was disappointed to drop behind Ricciardo at the start of the Sprint race, having initially made his way past Lewis Hamilton, only for his teammate and AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly to slip past – the latter crashing out on the first lap.
"It wasn't too bad coming to the wall, but when the grass starts coming, you don't know how you're gonna bump or come back onto the track, but I had position [as] I was to the right of [Hamilton] before he started to squeeze me," added Norris.
"It was kind of annoying at the same time, because I had no one ahead of me at this stage, so I had no slipstream from the cars ahead. That's how Daniel managed to come all the way up the inside, and also Pierre in a way.
"I kind of gained one from Lewis but it hurt me in another way."
Follow Rudy van Buren as he takes you on a flying lap around the home of Italian motorsport, the historic 'Temple of Speed' at Monza.