McLaren F1 chief Zak Brown has revealed that he was close to signing Daniel Ricciardo before the Australian dropped a bombshell and opted to do a two-year deal with Renault.
Brown made no secret before the Renault announcement that he had been in talks with Red Bull driver, and confirmed as much in an interview with Racer, “We had a couple of meetings and we are big fans of Daniel. 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.”
“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.”
McLaren has yet to confirm its driver line-up for next season with Fernando Alonso’s future still up in the air. Brown believes Ricciardo’s surprise departure from Red Bull won’t affect his team’s or Alonso’s plans for 2019.
“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.”