Former Porsche endurance racing boss turned McLaren F1 team principal Andreas Seidl wanted to give Daniel Ricciardo a shot at winning Le Mans in 2015.
The Australian will make his official McLaren debut this weekend at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Before this year, Ricciardo spent two seasons with Renault and a four-year stint with Red Bull between 2014 and 2018.
During his Red Bull tenure, Ricciardo was approached by Seidl with an offer to drive in the Le Mans-winning Porsche LMP1 machine.
“We had a conversation at the end of 2014 in preparation for the 2015 [World Endurance Championship] season,” Seidl told the Beyond the Grid podcast.
However, Seidl revealed that Red Bull would block the move considering it was Ricciardo’s first season with the team.
In the end, Porsche would sign Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg to join the team consisting of New Zealander Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy. The trio would win the race by a full lap over the sister Porsche 919 Hybrid.
“Nico [Hulkenberg] ended up in the car. So, [Ricciardo] could have won the race (the Le Mans 24 Hours).
“I knew he was interested in doing it, but at the time it didn’t work out because he didn’t get an allowance from Red Bull because  was his first year being at Red Bull and Red Bull wanted at the time his full focus on the [F1] project.”
Ricciardo had been McLaren’s radar for some time, with the two coming close to agreeing to a deal that would have seen the Australian join the team for the 2019 season.
“At the time I followed quite closely what he was doing in the different cars he was in already at the time and I always admired his on and off-track performance.”
For this year, McLaren will return to using a Mercedes power-unit for the first time in the turbo-hybrid era. Pre-season testing also revealed McLaren’s ingenious rear diffusor design, which exploits a technical loophole to have longer diffusor stakes than their rivals.
The team experienced one of their strongest testing programmes of recent seasons and comfortably look like a podium contender when the lights go out in Bahrain.
The 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix is scheduled to start at 4 am NZT Monday, March 29.