Renault Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo says that he risked losing the opportunity to race for McLaren in 2021 had he delayed his decision to join the team any further.
The seven-time Grand Prix winner signed for McLaren last month, the move announced on the same day that outgoing McLaren driver Carlos Sainz Jr would be replacing Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari.
Some observers have questioned why Ricciardo didn’t wait and at least see how the 2020 form-book looked rather than committing to a move before the first race of the new season.
But speaking on the F1 podcast, the Australian said that clear answers wouldn’t have emerged until a few races had been completed, which would have been “too late” to have many options available.
“I think obviously Vettel’s announcement or news with Ferrari kind of sparked everything,” Ricciardo said.
“And then things were moving pretty quickly around Carlos and all the other stuff.
“Although it seemed like there was maybe still time, I don’t actually think there was, to make movement – if that was what you were going for.
PLUS: The contrasting notice periods for F1 2020’s headline movers
“This is all just what I’m playing in my head – if you start racing in July, which even then wasn’t 100%, but which we are by the looks of it, you’re not going to find out in the first race or the second race.
“You’re probably going to wait until August or maybe September until you really know where everyone’s at, and then I think it felt like it was going to be too late to get something you were after.”
Ricciardo, who held talks with Ferrari before signing for McLaren, admitted that it was “by no means an easy” decision to leave Renault and based it on a combination of 2019 form and the potential of next year’s Mercedes-powered package.
“The reality is you get pitches from whichever team is talking to you, and to some extent, especially now without having any races and any kind of proof other than last year, you have to go on what pitch excites you more than the other,” Ricciardo said.
“If I go back to last year, which is our best reference for now, they were the team that made the most noise.
PLUS: What does Ricciardo’s McLaren sidestep mean for his F1 career?
“Mercedes won the championship again, but it was quite clear to most that McLaren was the team which made the biggest step out of all.
“That was really encouraging for them, and that’s really all you can base it on.
“And then the pitch for the future, obviously they are switching power units and all that.
“Even talking about it now it’s certainly tough, because by no means was it an easy decision, and not having very much to gauge from 2020, that was pretty difficult.”