McLaren boss Zak Brown says Sebastian Vettel was never considered as a candidate for a seat at McLaren for 2021 as the team was focused on Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo from the outset.
Even before the announcement this week of Vettel's exit from Ferrari, pundits had speculated on a tie-up between the German driver and McLaren.
But Brown insists that only Sainz and Ricciardo were factored into the team's 2021 plans last winter.
"Obviously Seb's an awesome driver and a four-time champion," he told Sky F1. "But I think we were pretty far down the path in the off-season and knew we would either land with Daniel or Carlos.
"We never really entertained anyone beyond that, and especially with Seb's late breaking news - we were pretty far down the path at that point."
Brown revealed that he gave Sainz the green light to negotiate with Ferrari, knowing that the Spaniard was being courted by the Italian outfit.
"I've come to learn in F1 don't expect anything except for the unexpected," he said. "We had a sense, we started talking to Carlos in the off-season about his future with us and whether he wanted to drive for McLaren or Ferrari.
"We've got a very strong, open relationship with Carlos, his management and his father.
"This didn't come as a surprise, given how quickly we announced Daniel, and how quickly Carlos announced what he was doing. We were very joined up through this entire process."
With Vettel likely determined to leave the Scuderia on a high, Brown is expecting more flare-ups between Ferrari's drivers when the season finally gets underway.
"Clearly, it's not a nice environment inside the Ferrari garage at the moment with the drivers and management, it seems to not be a happy family at the moment," said the American.
"Which I think is going to make for some pretty exciting racing in 2020 because I think we saw in Brazil the fireworks that were inevitable and building up. I'm anticipating more of that this year."
As for Vettel's future, Brown admits that the prospects are limited for the four-time world champion whose choices will likely boil down to joining Renault or retiring from the sport.
"It really depends, if Seb looks around, it doesn't look like there's a Mercedes or Red Bull opportunity for him, there's not a McLaren opportunity for him, clearly not at Ferrari, so the next best is Renault," said the McLaren boss.
"And the next question is does Seb want to go with a team that is probably not going to win in 2021?
"It's a great team and they too should be moving up the grid but I think unless Seb wants to restart a journey with a team that's back on a journey - then I think he'll end up probably leaving the sport, unfortunately."