Ricciardo was expected to be on the verge of signing an extension with Red Bull before he decided on the Enstone squad. However, speaking to RACER, the seven-time Grand Prix winner admits that he clicked well with McLaren, but was not encouraged by its pace.
“McLaren, as a group – I had a couple of meetings with them – and I thought they were really cool people,” he said. “Definitely as personnel I like them a lot. Not that I don’t like Red Bull or anyone else, but I had a really positive vibe with them.
"But obviously, they’ll admit it, they’re just not there yet, and it just seemed probably a bit too optimistic to go there at that point. So that kind of eliminated them. Then Renault we were kind of talking to a bit, and eventually it just kind of clicked for me and I was like ‘Alright, so it’s a works team, progress they’ve made is good, it’s two years and a solid deal’."
Ricciardo added that based on personality, McLaren would've been a good fit for him: “I think if it was completely personal then McLaren would have been as attractive as anyone,” the 29-year-old stated. “But there was still obviously a big chunk of performance there.
“The presentation and everything that Renault put forward, it seemed… We all know they’ve still got work to do with chassis and engine, but what they showed me, what they’ve done the last two years, when they put it on paper it all added up, and their trajectory seems realistic if that makes sense. It just seemed like it could work.
“It just seemed like the right fit, and I was like ‘You know what? That’s it’. It got to that point as well where what I really felt I just need a change, and just to break the routine, really."
Renault re-joined the F1 grid in 2016 and has been growing ever since. Last year, it ended the season in fourth place, winning the 'best of the rest' battle.
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing