McLaren believes it was “pretty close” to signing Daniel Ricciardo before he opted to leave Red Bull and join Renault from 2019.
Ricciardo was linked with a move to either McLaren or Renault during the French Grand Prix weekend, with both drivers at McLaren currently out of contract at the end of the season. Although those rumors subsided in the following weeks, Ricciardo then announced the surprise decision to leave Red Bull for Renault on Friday, and McLaren CEO Zak Brown told RACER his team was certainly in the running until learning of the decision earlier this week.
“We had a couple of meetings and we are big fans of Daniel,” Brown said. “I think he’s a great guy, I think he’s a great race car driver. How close we came to getting him, I think only Daniel knows the answer to that question.
“Had we been running more competitively I think that would have increased our odds.
“I think he had a strong desire to leave and I think it was probably pretty close between us and Renault, but ultimately Daniel would be best to tell you how close. But he was certainly someone that we rate very highly and think he’s a great race car driver and a great guy.”
Ricciardo’s departure opens up a seat at Red Bull for 2019, but while Fernando Alonso is yet to commit his future, Brown is not overly concerned the Spaniard could move on.
“I think it’s thrown a spanner in the works for some other teams but we’ve got a plan which we are executing against which Ricciardo’s move doesn’t impact.
“[Red Bull] is a great racing team but I think Fernando has got what he wants to do in the back of his mind. Never say never, but I don’t think it changes anything in Fernando’s world.”
Asked if Carlos Sainz is central to McLaren’s plan, Brown added: “No, not necessarily.
“I’m going to keep to myself what my plans are but today’s news doesn’t impact anything from my perspective.”