McLaren CEO Zak Brown says that his team came close to signing up Daniel Ricciardo to race for them next season.
Ricciardo was linked to a possible move to McLaren at the end of June. Rumours peaked at the French Grand Prix but subsequently subsided as it appeared that the Australian had decided to stay put at Red Bull.
However this week he shocked the motor racing world by announcing that he had signed up for Renault instead.
"I think it was probably pretty close between us and Renault," Brown told RACER magazine on Friday. “Had we been running more competitively I think that would have increased our odds.
“We had a couple of meetings and we are big fans of Daniel,” Brown continued.. “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," he said. "Ultimately Daniel would be best to tell you how close."
Brown certainly wasn't surprised by Ricciardo's decision to leave Red Bull, where he's been for the past five seasons in Formula 1.
"I think he had a strong desire to leave," Brown suggested.
Ricciardo's decision has certainly upset the driver market for 2019, which had appeared to be settling down as the expected pieces had fallen into place such as Mercedes retaining Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
The unexpectedly open seat at Red Bull is now one of the most appealing targets on the F1 grid for next season. Favourite for the spot is Carlos Sainz, the Toro Rosso driver who has been on loan to Renault this year but who has been strongly linked to McLaren in 2019 alongside Fernando Alonso.
Asked whether Sainz position is a major factor in McLaren's plans for next season, Brown answered: “No, not necessarily.
"I think it’s thrown a spanner in the works for some other teams," Brown acknowledged. "But we’ve got a plan which we are executing against which Ricciardo’s move doesn’t impact.
"[Friday's] news doesn’t impact anything from my perspective," Brown insisted, who added that he's optimistic that the team will still manage to hold on to Alonso for another season.
"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.”