Cape Town - With a "strong desire" to leave Red Bull, Zak
Brown says McLaren came "pretty close" to signing Daniel Ricciardo
for the 2019 season.
Ricciardo shocked the Formula 1 community on Friday when it
was announced that he would be leaving Red Bull and heading to Renault.
The Aussie has signed a two-year deal with the Enstone team,
one that is reportedly worth £20million-per-season.
Friday's announcement left Brown to wonder about what could
have been as he revealed McLaren were "pretty close" to signing the
"We had a couple of meetings and we are big fans of
Daniel," Brown told RACER.
"I think he's a great guy, I think he's a great race
"How close we came to getting him, I think only Daniel
knows the answer to that question.
"Had we been running more competitively I think that
would have increased our odds.
"I think he had a strong desire to leave and I think it
was probably pretty close between us and Renault, but ultimately Daniel would
be best to tell you how close.
"But he was certainly someone that we rate very highly
and think he's a great race car driver and a great guy."
Even though Ricciardo's move to Renault means Carlos Sainz,
linked to McLaren, could yet be called up by Red Bull, Brown says the Aussie's
move won't impact McLaren's potential driver line up.
More to the point, he doesn't see star driver Fernando
Alonso taking up the Red Bull seat.
"I think it's thrown a spanner in the works for some
other teams but we've got a plan which we are executing against which
Ricciardo's move doesn't impact.
"Red Bull is a great racing team but 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."