Webber to leave Formula 1 for Porsche Le Mans programme in 2014

Mark Webber's F1 career comes over at the end of 2013

Mark Webber set to depart F1 at the end of 2013

Mark Webber will leave champions Red Bull and Formula One at the end of the season to join Porsche’s new Le Mans sportscar programme, the Australian driver announced on Thursday.

“I’m very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in F1. I can hardly wait to pilot one of the fastest sports cars in the world,” he said on his website (www.markwebber.com).

Porsche said that he had signed a multi-year contract. Red Bull said that a decision on his replacement would not be made until later in the season.

The oldest driver on the starting grid, who will be 38 next year and is in his 12th season, Webber has yet to win a race in 2013 but has a good chance to rectify that at this weekend’s British Grand Prix.

The straight-talking Australian – who drives a Porsche for private use – has won two of the last three races at Silverstone, including last year’s, and has finished on the podium at what amounts to a second home race for him every year since 2009.

Mark Webber made his F1 debut at the 2002 Australian GP for Minardi

Mark Webber made his F1 debut at the 2002 Australian GP for Minardi

He has won nine grands prix, all for Red Bull, since his debut with Minardi in 2002 but has been eclipsed in the championship by German team mate Sebastian Vettel who is chasing a fourth successive title.

Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion with Ferrari, has been strongly tipped to take Webber’s place.

That move would replace one of the sport’s most outspoken drivers with the most taciturn and, at 33, the second oldest after Webber.

In a separate statement, Red Bull thanked Webber for his extensive contribution in his seven years with the team and their three successive constructors’ crowns.

“I am sure that Mark thought long and hard before making what has no doubt been a very difficult decision,” said principal Christian Horner, who co-owns a GP3 team with Webber and is close to the Australian.

Mark Webber's last F1 win was at the 2012 British GP

Mark Webber’s last F1 win was at the 2012 British GP

“His achievements in F1 are extensive and I am sure he will continue to push hard and build on that record until the end of the season,” added the Briton.

“We support Mark’s decision, he has been an excellent addition to the team since joining us in 2007 and we wish him all the best in the next stages of his career.”

Webber has renewed his Red Bull contract on a year-by-year basis for some time and his decision to call it a day came as no surprise.

Speculation that this would be his last season moved up a notch or two after the Malaysian Grand Prix, when Vettel disregarded ‘team orders’ to stay behind Webber and finish in one-two formation. Vettel’s victory became known as the “Multi-21 scandal”.

That ‘betrayal’ led to an even frostier relationship between the two Red Bull drivers who have kept matters strictly professional for some time.

Webber has long complained that Vettel, still only 25, is the Austrian-owned team’s favourite and that position will only be enhanced for the remaining 12 races now that he has decided to leave.

Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel clashed famously at the 2010 Turkish GP

Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel clashed famously at the 2010 Turkish GP

The Australian had hoped to become his country’s first champion since Alan Jones in 1980 but the closest he came was 2010 when he went into the final race in Abu Dhabi second overall and eight points behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

Vettel, who had been a further seven points adrift of Webber and had not led the championship all year, won that race and snatched his first title as the strategy unravelled in nightmare fashion for the Australian and Alonso.

Webber ended up third overall, repeating the feat in 2011.

At Minardi, Jaguar and Williams he did his best in largely uncompetitive cars, beating a string of team mates including Nico Rosberg – now a winner with Mercedes.

Webber has twice raced at Le Mans, with not entirely fond memories. With Mercedes in 1999 his car flipped into the air twice in practice and the warm-up before the team withdrew for safety reasons.

The Porsche LMP1 which Mark Webber will drive

The Porsche LMP1 which Mark Webber will drive in 2014

“I’m very pleased to have secured Mark Webber for our LMP1 (Le Mans prototype) project as one of the best and most successful F1 pilots of our time,” Porsche board member for research and development Wolfgang Hatz said in a statement.

“Mark is without doubt one of the world’s best race drivers, he has experience at the Le Mans 24 hour race and on top of that he’s been a Porsche enthusiast for many years.”

Webber will compete in the world endurance championship with Switzerland’s Neel Jani, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas also confirmed in the Porsche lineup.

“I learned to appreciate Mark’s qualities when we were both involved in F1,” says Fritz Enzinger, Head of LMP1. “He is one of the best pilots I could imagine for our team. I’m absolutely delighted that we have such an experienced and fast regular driver onboard from 2014.” (GMM)

Subbed by AJN.

  • Spartacus

    I knew there was talk, but this is a bit of a shock. Webber is one of the top drivers in F1; Soon one of the top drivers in Le Mans.

    A sad loss to F1.

  • realf1fan

    Webber for me never did those great Rob Marshall and Newey designs machines any justice apart from in 2010.
    The RB7 was the most dominant of the Red Bull racing machines so far and for Webber to finish behind Jenson in an RB7 was just unforgivable.

  • Fairly Terrace

    I was really rooting for him in 2010, and the first half of 2012 wasn’t awful, either. But, he’s not as fast as he was ten years ago and no longer the number one driver in the team. I reckon his confidence has taken a blow or two (or 3…)

  • Hawk

    yeah. sad. he was my second choice of 2010. he was crushed when he lost that one. such a pity.. it hurts to come so close

  • Henk

    Its clear he hasn’t performed well enough in the last two years. But in 2010 he was a contender until the last race and I wonder to what extent his lack of focus and performance may have been caused by realising he was not going to have the same treatment as Vettel (e.g., when Vettel got replacement parts out of Webber’s car!). The question that will remain unanswered is: could he have been closer to the title in 2011 and 2012 had RB supported him more and Vettel less?

  • Spartacus

    The other problem is that if he did go to Ferrrari he’d be quicker than Alonso but No. 2 driver.

  • McLarenfan

    Being constantly a number 2 driver has obviously and rightfully made Mark think that the parts from his car are and always have been Vettel’s cast off, the way Marko and Horner have been 2 faced when Vettel has been in the wrong and they have not suported Mark

  • Long time fan

    This is a very good reason to start watching WEC. I only tune in to endurance racing for Le Mans, but if he is a full time driver, I think i’ll have to follow it. Sad to hear he is leaving, but very excited to see what he can do in another pinnacle of motorsport.

  • OZwatcher

    I’m wrapped to see Honda coming back to GP’s because whne that happens, maybe non European drivers might have a chance at wining a world championship. Webbo was always going to be Vet-tool’s patsy in a team run by Euros, especially Marko. Thinking about it, if I got paid the amount Mark does, and got to fang those Newey designed rockets around those circuits every other Sunday, I would have done that too – at the drop of a hat!
    Onya Webbo – you are awesome!

  • MacStar227

    Bye Mate!

  • mightyK

    Sad news but expected. Webb has long been my favorite driver on any grid. His demeanor and tell-it-like-it-is – no BS approach, to me, makes him a MAN among boys. I enjoy watching all the drivers every race, they’re all very talented. But sadly, in the end, there’s just not much to like there. And after Mark’s current contemporaries are gone, the veteran/30 something bunch, who will we be left with then? No driver is in the car more than 2 years any more.
    Anyway, Mark Webber wins at everything he does, and AussieGrit will continue to thrive.

  • hillside

    he can go to SF like Rubens.

  • delfino

    Good for you Webbo, finally you’ll get away as far as possible from that little finger waving whining spoiled jerk and his sh*t cheating team. Not a surprising decision at all after everything finger boy and Red Fools have done to him. Good luck for the rest of your racing career man!

  • Alonso_is_slow

    Finally!

    Now Vettel can show how to crush Raikkonen and silence critics.

    Bye-bye Alonso fame.

  • fools

    Well said delfino

  • Tamburello_1994

    The one year contracts couldn’t go on forever so this is really no surprise at least to me it isn’t.

  • jeff

    Mark has been great for our sport.I wish him well. I hope when he leaves he punchs Seb, CH, and dr marko. There two faced cheats. Go Mark Go

  • Nemo

    Its a shame to see him go, considering he received offers from other teams, but he always said RBR would be his last team. I agree with most that 2010 was his year. Up until he broke his shoulder anyway. He sure will be missed from the grid next year.
    Will also miss his frankness in answering questions, instead of the usual corporate drivel we get from other drivers.
    Marko will also be happy to get rid of the Webber thorn in his side. Nothing makes him happier than when Vettel starts fingering