Zak Brown has explained why Daniel Ricciardo changed his mind about joining McLaren, having initially rejected an offer to join the British team for the 2019 season.
With the retirement of Fernando Alonso at the end of the 2018 season and the decision not to renew Stoffel Vandoorne’s contract, McLaren were left searching for a team-mate for rookie Lando Norris.
The team approached Daniel Ricciardo and held in-depth contract discussions before the Australian decided to join Renault, claiming a works team was the better option for his career.
But after a single season, Ricciardo has chosen to quit the French manufacturer to join McLaren for 2021.
Explaining what changed, Brown said McLaren’s poor spell and promises to recover failed to convince Ricciardo, but having seen the team bounce back in 2019 to finish fourth in the standings – and ahead of Renault – the 30-year-old now believes in the project and its long-term ambitions.
“We went after him a couple of years ago before he made the decision not to join us,” Brown told Sky Sports F1. “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’.
“He likes how it’s played out,”added Brown. “I’ve liked how it’s played out. 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.
“Getting a grand prix winner like Daniel definitely is a sign we’re going in the right direction.”