McLaren had the potential to block Carlos Sainz's move to Ferrari next year, but opted to release him from an optional extra year in his contract to sign Daniel Ricciardo.
Sainz will move from McLaren to Ferrari at the end of the season, taking Sebastian Vettel's place as the German moves to Racing Point. The Sainz announcement was made before the start of the 2020 season and was quickly followed by news that Ricciardo would leave Renault to take Sainz's place at McLaren.
It later emerged that talks between Sainz and Ferrari had started over the winter, but team CEO Zak Brown said he was aware of the situation and could have blocked the switch if McLaren's Ricciardo deal fell through.
"We could have kept him - we had an agreement where we could have stopped that, we had an option," Brown told the official F1 podcast Beyond the Grid. "We tried to get Daniel Ricciardo the first time around, a couple of years ago [in 2018], so he was always highest on our list, and when Andreas [Seidl, McLaren Team Principal] joined, we kept in touch with Daniel.
"So conversations were started with Daniel. We got the sense he wasn't happy where he was at [at Renault], so it was more that the stars aligned in that we wanted to explore Daniel, Carlos wanted to explore Ferrari. We could have said no but we had an interest in Daniel and we kind of thought, 'If we can end up with Daniel and Carlos ends up with Ferrari, that's a good ending for both of us'."
Brown made clear that he was never worried about a situation where the team was left without Sainz or Ricciardo.
"We would have never let Carlos go if we didn't feel we could have got Daniel," added Brown, "but when we thought that that window was open, we kind of said, 'Yeah, let's go explore,' set a date where we would come back to each other, and it turned out we could get Daniel and Ferrari did want [Carlos], so we said, 'Great, let's do it.'"