Lando Norris believes his good friend George Russell has undergone a transformation since joining the Mercedes team, and thinks the Briton has lost his "fun side".
As young guns who battled through the ranks and with each other, Norris and Russell both entered Formula 1 in 2019, the former with McLaren and the latter with Williams.
While they continued their facetious relationship in their first years in the sport, the rapport has become more strait-laced on the back of Russell's promotion to his plum Mercedes seat, a move that has reshaped the 24-year-old's personality according to Norris.
"My manager, my trainer, my parents, have always tried to keep me as me, rather than try to shape me," Norris told the Press Association
"I see other drivers get shaped more because of who they are with, the teams they are with, and I don’t think that is a good thing. It takes away their personality.
"Growing up with George for instance was a lot of fun. He was a great person, but it is different at Mercedes – a different vibe and a different atmosphere. I just don’t see as fun a side of him."
As one of F1's brightest talents, Russell is a popular figure with F1's fans. But Norris reckons that his friend and rival would be even a bigger hit with the fans if he hadn't shed his fun side.
"George is a great person, and I feel like the personality he had a few years ago, he would be even more popular," said the McLaren driver.
"I don’t think it is Mercedes’ fault but the pressure of being with Mercedes, and having Lewis [Hamilton] as a team-mate, is never going to be an easy thing.
"You don’t want to be seen to be having a fun time and playing around, but on the other side there are no complaints because George is doing an amazing job this year, so it is working for him."