McLaren boss Zak Brown believes Daniel Ricciardo is now convinced of the team’s progress and future prospects, two years after turning them down.
The Woking team identified Ricciardo, a seven-time grand prix winner, as the man to replace Carlos Sainz once it became clear that the Spaniard might move to Ferrari.
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McLaren held talks with Ricciardo when the Australian was last in the final year of a contract two years ago, but the Australian instead chose to move to Renault from Red Bull. At the end of that 2018 season, Renault finished in a promising fourth place with nearly double the points of McLaren.
But after a turnaround in respective fortunes in 2019, when McLaren took fourth by a comfortable margin and signed several key deals – including a Mercedes engine supply for 2021 – Brown believes Ricciardo has bought into their long-term plans.
“Getting a grand prix winner like Daniel definitely is a sign we’ve going in the right direction,” said Brown, McLaren’s chief executive to Sky Sports. “He believes in that.
“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’.”
But, two years on, Brown says: “He likes how it’s played out, 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.”
McLaren excited by Ricciardo and Norris
Although McLaren hold Sainz in high esteem, and believe the Spaniard will prosper next to Charles Leclerc at Ferrari, Brown is excited by the impending arrival of a driver of Ricciardo’s stature – one of the grid’s most established and high-profile drivers.
“I think he’s definitely worth it otherwise we wouldn’t have done it. What’s been reported [on wages] is not accurate, but he is a very well paid driver. I think he’s worth it,” insisted Brown.
“He’s won seven Grands Prix, and I think in the right car he’s capable of winning a championship immediately.
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