Mark Webber and Red Bull

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By Daniel Coomans

It’s official: Mark Webber has announced that he will retire from Formula One at the end of the 2013 season, taking a place in Porsche’s new sportscar programme in World Endurance Championship and Le Mans 24 Hours. The decision comes after what no doubt must’ve been a long thought process, many rumours suggest he departs on the back of recent events, namely the incident in Malaysia where teammate Sebastian Vettel disobeyed team orders to hold station and overtook Mark for the lead and went on to win the Grand Prix. Mark says otherwise, “It’s an honour for me to join Porsche at its return to the top category in Le Mans and in the sports car World Endurance Championship and be part of the team,” said Webber. “Porsche has written racing history as a manufacturer and stands for outstanding technology and performance at the highest level. I’m very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in Formula One. Porsche will undoubtedly set itself very high goals. I can hardly wait to pilot one of the fastest sports cars in the world.”

Webber, now at the age of 36 will join former Red Bull development driver Neel Jani in Porsche’s LMP1 team, along with Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas for the 2014 World Endurance Championship which includes the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours at the Circuit De la Sarthe of which Webber has raced at previously which ended in a frightening crash back in 1999 when his Mercedes CLR had an aerodynamic fault and flipped. Mark who made his debut race back in 2002 for Minardi where he scored his first two points, Minardi’s only points in the entire season, he then moved to Jaguar where he remained for 2003-2004, Mark managed 10th in the Driver’s championship in 03 and a mere 13th in 04 but remained un-beaten by his teammates in qualifying for both seasons. In 2005 and 2006 Webber raced for Williams F1 Team, having a mixed season in 05 and agreeing that it was rather disappointing, finishing a measly 10th on the Driver’s Championship with 36 points, opting to stay with Williams for 06 despite an offer from BMW Sauber, that might not have been the best move, while initially showing promise with decent qualifying positions and general race performance, Mark had an even poorer season with many retirements from either incidents involving other driver’s or poor luck with many reliability issues, finishing only 14th with 7 points.

Webber then joined Red Bull Racing in 2007 where he remains today to complete his Formula One career. Paired with David Coulthard, Mark began his career at Red Bull Racing, but ultimately after poor reliability he managed only 12th, 2008 saw Webber claw back a little with an 11th placed season, 2009 saw his first Formula One pole-position and race victory, a number of podiums and top ten finishes saw Webber’s career best fourth place in the Driver’s Championship, 2010 brought Webber another career best with five pole-positions, four wins and six podiums giving him third in the Driver’s Championship, 2011 was another strong season for Webber with three pole-positions, one victory and nine podiums, 2011 also saw Mark Webber never finishing outside the top 10 barring his retirement from the Italian Grand Prix, 2012 saw two victories, two podiums, a number of fourth place finishes, two retirements and three outside to 10 finishes placing him in sixth place in the Driver’s Championship. 2013 has not been Webber’s best season which is another speculation of why he might have decided to call it quits.

The topic on everyone’s mind now is: what’s on the table for the Red Bull of 2014? Who knows, there are a number of possible replacements for Webber, the likes of Lotus’ Kimi Räikönnen and Toro Rosso drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne. The best choice by performance might just be Räikönnen, but with his attitude to racing, I expect we’ll see a lot more racing between him and Vettel for the number one driver position, until then however Webber will continue to support Red Bull until his departure at the end of the season.

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