Renault's racing director Frederic Vasseur has said they were interested in Stoffel Vandoorne to fill the race seat vacated by Pastor Maldonado but McLaren refused to release him from his contract.
Maldonado's contract with Renault was ended following a dispute with PDVSA - Venezuela's state-owned oil and gas company and a long-time sponsor of the Lotus team acquired by Renault - over payments.
The Venezuelan's deal was linked to the funding PDVSA provided and was reportedly terminated following the non-payment of the 2016 sponsorship fee.
Kevin Magnussen has since stepped into the breach to race alongside rookie Jolyon Palmer in 2016, although Belgian Vandoorne appears to have been Renault's first choice.
"We had to put a cross next to Stoffel [on our driver list]," Vasseur told DH. "He is under contract with McLaren and the team did not want to part ways.
"So we needed someone who was available and our choice was therefore focused on Kevin [Magnussen]."