Christian Horner says Lewis Hamilton was "desperate" to sign for Red Bull on multiple occasions before leaving McLaren for Mercedes in 2013.
Hamilton had a career-long affiliation with McLaren and won the world championship in 2008, his second season in the sport. However, he was unable to win the title in the four seasons following that triumph, including a frustrating 2012 campaign plagued with reliability issues.
In the latter part of that campaign Hamilton shocked the F1 world when he announced he would sign for Mercedes, a team which had just one victory in three seasons since taking over the Brawn team. However, Red Bull principal Horner says before he made that decision he had wanted to drive alongside Sebastian Vettel in 2012 and 2013.
"He was desperate to drive for the team," Horner told F1 Racing magazine. "In 2012, he wanted to come and drive for us, but there was no way we could accommodate him while Sebastian was with us. Then before he signed for Mercedes he was very keen to drive for Red Bull for 2013."
Mercedes chief Niki Lauda has said it was Hamilton's retirement from the lead in Singapore that season -- an engine failure which all but ended his title chances -- which convinced him he could sign the Briton for 2013. McLaren was one of Red Bull's closest challengers at that point and Horner says he pushed Hamilton towards accepting the Mercedes seat in the hope it nullified one of the most talented drivers on the grid, not expecting their V6 turbo dominance from 2014.
"The McLaren had been very competitive in 2011 and 2012 and I thought it would probably be better for us for him to be at Mercedes than McLaren, so in the event of us not being able to sign him I encouraged Niki Lauda to sign him to weaken McLaren - not envisaging that Mercedes would become the absolute powerhouse they are today."
While Hamilton has won two world championships since joining Mercedes, McLaren has not won a race since his departure at the end of 2012.