Ricciardo risked being 'too late' if he waited to decide McLaren move

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Daniel Ricciardo believes he would have been "too late" to get the McLaren seat in 2021 had he waited for this season to begin.

The Australian's move was confirmed in the wake of Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari announcing they would split at the end of 2020 last month and just before Carlos Sainz was officially named as the German's replacement.

Ricciardo's move from Enstone to Woking also comes after he rejected McLaren's first approach in 2018, while he was still at Red Bull.

But asked what was different this time, the seven-time Grand Prix winner admitted it was simply a matter of the appeal. 

“It’s what pitch excites you more than the other,” he told the F1 Nation podcast.

“You’re going with what you feel and think at the time. Last year is our best reference for now and they [McLaren] were the team that made the most noise.

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“Mercedes won the championship but it was probably quite clear to most that McLaren made the biggest step of all.

“That was obviously encouraging for them and that’s really all you can kind of base it off and then the pitch for the future.

“Obviously they are switching power units so I guess there’s a bit they are excited about.”

His early decision did surprise some though, notably Renault and Mercedes, but Ricciardo feels waiting would have been more detrimental.

“It was by no means an easy decision and not having much to gauge from 2020 was pretty difficult," he explained.

"Vettel’s announcement with Ferrari sparked everything and then things were moving pretty quickly around Carlos and all the other stuff.

“Although it seemed like there was still time I don’t think there actually was to make movement if that’s what you were going for.

“If you start racing in July, you’re not going to find out in the first or second race so you’re probably going to wait until August or September to really know where everyone’s at and by then it felt it was probably too late to get something you were after.”

Commenting on Ricciardo on Wednesday, however, McLaren CEO Zak Brown did warn the soon-to-be 31-year-old that he'd have to be patient for results.

“I think Daniel is a championship calibre driver,” the American told the Sky Sports Vodcast.

“I don’t think we’ll quite give him a championship calibre car in 2021, we’re still on our road to recovery, but I think we will give him a competitive car and in 2022, let’s see what happens.”