Mark Webber’s decision to quit Formula 1 at the end of 2013, and move his career to sportscar racing with Porsche, took many people by surprise including members his own team, but the straight talking Australian believes the announcement was made at the right time and admits that he is intrigued by who will replace him at Red Bull.
Webber told the media at Silverstone, “The timing is perfect for me. Very, very excited about my new chapter and the new challenge ahead. One of the most famous and most well-respected brands in automotive and motor racing is Porsche, so that’s something which personally I’m very satisfied about taking on. The decision has been there for quite a long time for me actually. So, I’ve known for quite a while, I’ve had a plan and I’ve stuck to it. But still, in the meantime, respecting the profession that I have now at this level and focusing on achieving very, very strong results in my last season in F1.”
Asked if he cared who would take his seat at Red Bull, Webber replied, “I’ll watch with interest, mate. Yeah.”
Several reasons contributed towards Webber deciding to take up the Porsche offer, “There’s lots of reasons that come into the pot, I think, when any sportsman or women comes to that time in their career where they want to call it a day. That’s another small ingredient: there’s going to be big, big changes in this sport next year, so I may as well go and do those big, big changes where my future is going to be. Let’s see how the category is next year in F1 – I’ll be interested to watch every now and then and go from there…watch these guys do their stuff.”
Webber, who took all nine of his F1 victories with Red Bull, does not believe that his decision impacts negatively on the world champions and reveals that the team’s billionaire boss was in the loop throughout the decision making process which began several months ago.
“They know [that] they’ve got to make some decisions in the future. Dietrich [Mateschitz] has been completely up to speed with my thinking in the last six to eight months, so Dietrich has been absolutely on board and on message with where I’ve been. He’s certainly encouraged me not to rush my decision when I approached him earlier in the season. I think basically all of the right channels and avenues that we went through to get the message across as subtly as we could in terms of the announcement was done in the right way,” claimed Webber.
Despite not winning an F1 world championship title while his teammate Sebastian Vettel nothced up three in a row from 2010 to 2012, Webber claims he does not leave the pinnacle of the sport with regrets.
“At this level, you’re always open to some adversity here and there and challenges, that’s how this sport is, any top flight sport is going to be snapshots of different things which you could probably have done better here and there, but there’s no career which is like this. You’re going to have ups and downs and getting off the canvas is part of the rules, so I’ve been very fortunate to have some very, very special memories for sure, ” said Webber.
“How long is a piece of string? You could have more in terms of championships or whatever, but 2010 was a very, very big battle with lots of quality drivers and it went to the last race so of course I remember that, I led the championship at the wrong race but it was… I’m looking back with very fond memories and I’ve still got races to go obviously this year so still looking to add to those great memories and helping Red Bull still achieve very, very good results.”
Webber has been a fixture in the F1 paddock since 2002, and he admitted that there will be things about the world he leaves which he will miss, “We all strive to get to the pinnacle, and I’ve been with JB, Lewis, Fernando, these guys for a long time, racing. We all know where we’ve come from. I’m very proud of where I’ve come from. I don’t forget the street that I grew up on in Australia.”
“F1 is seen as the pinnacle. Working with people like Adrian Newey, there’s things like that which of course won’t go un-noticed but as any sportsman or woman will know, you’re not 25 [years old] for ever so you’ve got to get the decision right and the timing right and stopping when you’re still performing well. I believe that’s absolutely correct for yourself and that’s part of the course that I will miss.”
“The drug on the grid when the [team] guys walk away from the car, that’s the best legal drug you can get. I’m ready to go racing so that’s brilliant. Like I say, you’ve got to be real with yourself and know there’s a day where you need to roll on to the next chapter and that’s what I’m very excited by. You can’t kid yourself and say it’s going to go on for ever,” mused the 36 year old.
Webber is adamant that the decision to move on at the end of the season will not impact his performances until the last race in Brazil.
“I think going forward, for the rest of the season, it doesn’t change a huge amount to be honest, because I’ve known the decision… nothing changes for my approach now because obviously it’s now out for everybody, but in terms of the last few races, obviously challenging for the top steps and when you get everything right, obviously we want to get wins as well.”
“I don’t see that being a huge, huge difference. It’s in my interest to keep the motivation up until Brazil and work hard with the guys. That’s important. At this level, I’m fully respectful of the effort that goes in to get the car out there, so I need to keep pushing, for myself and for the team because they put in a lot of work, obviously, at the factory at Milton Keynes, Renault, everyone,” affirmed Webber.
Webber’s new pastures are geared to take on Audi and Toyota in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) where Le Mans is by far the most important and high profile event on the schedule. Webber’s ‘first’ sportscar career, with Mercedes at the time, came to a premature end after he flipped twice on the Mulsanne straight during practice for the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans.
An aerodynamic fault on the Mercedes CLRs caused Webber to become airborne during both practice and race-day warm up, with the same fate befalling teammate Peter Dumbreck five hours into the race. Both drivers escaped uninjured, but the crashes forced Mercedes to ditch their sportscar program that year.
When reminded about the saga, Webber recollected, “Le Mans, yeah, in 1999, that era, those cars were very, very… I think the regulations were quite dangerous. We had a lot of cars having some big shunts in that era. I think all manufacturers had issues with keeping the cars on the ground, just because of the way the regs were written and they were quite quick.”
“Motor racing is dangerous, I accept that, we all know that. Le Mans is a classic race. The cars are not slow there now, but I’m not a guy who wants to wrap myself in cotton wool either. I’m looking forward to the challenge and yeah, it’s something which was in my thinking in terms of the safety factors, all those things which have improved since we were there last and they will continue to improve as well, not just the circuit but the cars. We’ve gone forward since 13 years ago.”
Webber should complete 215 grand prix starts before he parts the Formula 1 scene at Interlagos in November. Although he lies fourth in the championship standings and 63 points adrift Vettel who leads the title standings, there is still opportunities for Webber to add to his nine victories and Silverstone (this weekend) must rate as one of his best chances to take his tally into double figures.
After all the popular Aussie has won the British GP twice in three years, and been on the podium four times in the past four years. (GP247)
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