• Red Bull driver to join Porsche’s sportscar programme
• Webber says he wants ‘a new challenge’
Mark Webber has decided to quit Formula One at the end of this season. The 36-year-old Red Bull driver will join Porsche’s new sportscar programme, which will include an attempt at the Le Mans 24 Hours race.
As revealed in the Guardian, Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen is one of the favourites to replace Webber, although Red Bull like to promote from within and Daniel Ricciardo or Jean-Eric Vergne, who drive for their Toro Rosso sister team, would also be candidates.
Webber said that he had decided it was time for a “new challenge after my time in Formula One”. The Australian added: “Porsche has written racing history as a manufacturer and stands for outstanding performance and technology at the highest level. I can hardly wait to pilot one of the fastest sports cars in the world.”
Webber has been racing in Formlua One for 12 years during which time he has won nine grands prix, achieved 36 podium finishes, 11 pole positions and 15 fastest laps and twice finished third in the world championship.
His best season was 2010, when he led the championship for much of the year before faltering in the final three races, falling behind his team-mate Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
The tension between Webber and Vettel has been evident during their five years together at Red Bull, most recently in this season’s Malaysian Grand Prix, when the German ignored a direct team order not to overtake Webber to win the race which left the Australian furious and the future of their partnership in doubt beyond this season.
Webber, from Queanbeyan in New South Wales, has won nine grands prix from 205 starts and set pole position 11 times.
Racing for Porsche next season will not be his Le Mans debut. He raced for Mercedes in 1998 and 1999 but a mechanical problem ended his debut early in the race.
Webber’s Mercedes flipped in 1999 because of an aerodynamic flaw, and despite saying at the time he would not return to the French race, he has now decided to take up Porsche’s offer.
The Red Bull team principal Christian Horner had previously stated his intention to sit down with Webber later this summer to discuss the prospect of a further one-year contract extension.
Instead, Horner will now be scouting around for Webber’s replacement.”I am sure Mark thought long and hard before making what has no doubt been a very difficult decision,” said Horner.
“His achievements in Formula One are extensive and I am sure he will continue to push hard and build on that record until the end of the season.
“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.”