Daniel Ricciardo has revealed he was in talks with Mercedes over a seat for 2019 right up until they re-signed Valtteri Bottas in July.
The Australian was the highest profile driver on the market last year with his contract at Red Bull expiring and openly considering his options away from the Milton Keynes outfit.
Initial rumours of a Ferrari switch quickly ended but ESPN claims the German manufacturer, who denied any interest in Ricciardo, did have some communication with the 29-year-old until they announced Bottas at Hockenheim.
"I knew talks would take a bit of time, trying to feel each other out, but it got to June/July and maybe we had spoken a few times and we hadn't really got anywhere, so if you want me, tell me otherwise, I will move on, that's cool," Ricciardo said.
"I guess it gets to the point like that with everyone where you want a black or white answer and that's it. I guess the games can wear a little thin."
One thing Ricciardo found particularly tricky during the whole decision process was assessing the seriousness of each team's interest.
"Look, part of it was fun for sure, and part of it was exciting having these little meetings," he added.
"I guess it was all new to me. I guess just hearing them out and before a meeting, maybe like 'Oh, what's going to get talked about and how deep is it going to go'. The process and all that was exciting for sure.
"I guess on one hand I had teams that really wanted me, and then on the other, there were teams that were kind of half a foot in the door but not really... so Mercedes and that.
"At times it was confusing for sure, and obviously you're trying to figure out what is real and what isn't, who's genuine and who is not. Again, that was exciting, but it does keep the mind ticking a little bit."
Eventually, the seven-time Grand Prix winner would make the surprise decision to join Renault, just as it appeared a new deal with Red Bull was about to be signed.
"I don't even know if it's games, but circling around the edges, it's like just go straight in!" Ricciardo continued speaking of his experience in the driver market.
"But these are all things I will learn, and I am sure there will be another time in my career where I will need to go through this process again.
"I am sure there's things I will do differently. I don't necessarily have any regrets, it's all just a learning process."
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