LONDON (Reuters) – Daniel Ricciardo had discussions with Ferrari over a possible move to the Italian Formula One team before opting for McLaren, the Australian said on Thursday.
Ricciardo is of Italian descent and has long been considered an obvious target for Ferrari, the sport’s oldest and most glamorous team.
In the end, Ferrari chose McLaren’s Spaniard Carlos Sainz as replacement for four times world champion Sebastian Vettel alongside Charles Leclerc for 2021.
“There have been discussions already from a few years back. And that continued all the way through to now,” Ricciardo, 30, told CNN Sports.
“I won’t deny that. But obviously it’s never really come to fruition.
“I don’t know actually and I’ve never really chosen to dive too deep into it,” added Ricciardo on the reasons why.
“Everyone says it would be a good fit, obviously, with my name and all the background stuff but, yeah, I try not to get emotionally caught up in any kind of situation.”
Ricciardo recognised Sainz, 25, was a good fit for Ferrari and described the Spaniard as “a bit of a hot property right now”.
Sainz finished last season sixth overall, the highest placed driver from outside the top three teams.
Ricciardo, a seven times race winner with Red Bull, had a difficult season at Renault with a best result of fourth last year.
He said there was not one event that triggered his decision to move to McLaren.
“There wasn’t any moment which was like a light bulb and said, ‘Yes, that’s what I need to do.’ Equally, there wasn’t something I saw in McLaren which created that or there wasn’t something in Renault which created the moment of ‘I have to move on.’
“The discussions with McLaren go back to even before, I guess, 2018, and I guess continued over time.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Ken Ferris)