Chief executive Zak Brown has revealed why Daniel Ricciardo initially rejected a move to McLaren when he was coming off contract in 2018.
Brown on Friday said the Australian driver was McLaren's first choice to replace Ferrari-bound Spaniard Carlos Sainz and Sebastian Vettel was never in the frame.
The former world champions had actually tried to sign Ricciardo in 2018 when the seven-times race winner was at Red Bull mulling his options.
‘NOT SMARTEST MOVE’: Daniel Ricciardo issued big reality check
After talks with McLaren, Ricciardo eventually decided to sign with Renault.
And Brown has now revealed why Ricciardo was initially unwilling to join the British team.
“Getting a Grand Prix winner like Daniel definitely is a sign we’ve going in the right direction,” Brown told Sky Sports on Tuesday.
“We went after him a couple of years ago before he made the decision not to join us.
“I’ve talked to him about it since and he went ‘you were coming off a pretty poor season’ - which was putting it politely - ‘but also there was a lot of this is what we’re going to do to rebuild the team’.
“I hadn’t brought in yet Andreas Seidl or James Key or restructured the leadership team.
“So there were a lot of promises and, coming off such a bad season, I could see how he would go ‘oh, let’s see how this plays out’.”
Ricciardo decided to join Renault in 2019 after a promising fourth-placed finish in the championship in 2018.
However after McLaren pulled off a stunning turnaround and leapfrogged Renault in the standings in 2019, Ricciardo jumped at the chance.
“He likes how it’s played out, I’ve liked how it’s played out,” Brown said.
“He’s seen the changes we’ve made, the leadership Andreas has brought, the backing we have from our shareholders, going to the Mercedes engine, we’re a team on the move and I think he’s going to help get us to the next level.”
Brown predicts Vettel retirement
Brown said he now expects Vettel, who is leaving Ferrari at the end of 2020, to retire.
“Obviously Seb's an awesome driver and a four-time champion,” the American told Sky.
“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 added that Vettel had limited options if he wanted to continue.
“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,” he said.
“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.”