McLaren boss reveals Ricciardo was courted for 'years' ahead of 2021 deal


It's been a long time coming, but McLaren finally have their man. According to McLaren CEO Zak Brown, the Woking team had sought Daniel Ricciardo's services ever since he said he'd leave Red Bull in 2018, and while they initially failed to bag him, their continued investment in new personnel, adoption of Mercedes engines from 2021, plus that fourth-place finish in 2019, sealed the deal for him to join in 2021.

For Brown, the signing of Ricciardo is symbolic for the eight-time constructors champions.

“I think getting a Grand Prix winner like Daniel definitely is a sign that we’re going in the right direction," Brown told Sky Sports F1. "He believes in that.

READ MORE: What do Sainz and Ricciardo moves mean for Vettel and the rest of the driver market?

“We went after him a couple of years ago, before he made the decision not to join us, and I talked to him about it since and he went: 'you were coming off a pretty poor season', which is putting it politely.”

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 26: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren F1 Team MCL33

The wheels threatened to come off McLaren's 2018 campaign before the season had even started. They ended up sixth in the championship

Ricciardo left Red Bull at the end of the 2018 season – when McLaren finished sixth in the championship behind Haas – for Renault, who finished a stellar fourth.

But there was a role reversal last year when McLaren - using Renault engines - beat the works squad to P4 in the standings. That, along with McLaren’s various improvements, such as the appointment of Andreas Seidl and James Key to the leadership team, and a deal to move back to Mercedes units next year left Ricciardo thinking about the Woking squad again.

“There was a lot of promises, and coming off such a bad season I can see how he’d go ‘meh, let’s see how this plays out.’” said Brown.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 12: McLaren Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown and McLaren Team

Zak Brown (left) brought in Andreas Seidl as Team Principal at the start of May 2019

“He’s liked how It’s played out, I’ve liked how it’s played out and now he’s seen the changes we’ve made, the leadership Andreas has brought, the backing 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 on the next level.”

READ MORE: Why Ricciardo has gambled his future on McLaren – rather than staying at Renault

As Carlos Sainz will move to Ferrari in 2021, McLaren will therefore have a partnership of young gun Lando Norris and seven-time Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo in their ranks.

All eyes will be on the orange cars to see how bright their future – with Silver Arrows power underneath – will prove to be.

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