Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Mark Webber to leave Formula One for sports cars with Porsche - Red Bull driver will exit F1 at the end of this year, for WEC 2014

Published by Christine

And it's goodbye from him
And it's goodbye from himCredit: Getty Images

The rumour mill for driver movements had fallen quiet of late, and it was Mark Webber that decided to stir things up again with the abrupt announcement that he will retire from Formula One at the end of this season. After twelve years and four different teams, the Australian driver has decided enough is enough, and will be moving across to sports cars for 2014.

It's not a massive surprise to see Webber call time on his F1 career, although he has said there were options for him to remain in the sport for the coming season. All the top teams have number one drivers in place, and it seems unlikely he would want to take a sideways step and remain in the secondary position. There's also little to entice him backwards down the grid, so it makes sense for Webber to spread his wings and try a new challenge. Porsche's new LMP1 project appears to be a perfect fit.

The timing is perfect to join a fresh programme. It’s a sensational challenge and opportunity for my future to work with one of the most famous marques in motorsport... I’ve had a personal plan and I’ve stuck to it. This is the next chapter.

- Mark Webber

Twenty-four little hours

It's an exciting move for Webber, to try his hand at something new and move away from the inter-team bickering that has frustrated him over the past few seasons. It's also great news for us watching Le Mans - the Audi team will hopefully have some fierce competition in the new Porsche entrant, and the addition of a well-known and friendly F1 face makes it even more personal.

Webber is no stranger to endurance racing, having previously entered the Le Mans 24 Hour race in both 1998 and 1999. The latter race saw him involved in a terrifying airborne somersault which put an end to his early sports cars career, but nearly fifteen years on, he's ready to return.

I accept that motor racing is dangerous but Le Mans is one of the most famous circuits in the world and to be honest, I still see it as unfinished business and I want to do well there. Le Mans can be cruel as we’ve just seen, but it’s incredibly rewarding and that’s part of the allure.

- Mark Webber

Webber has had his fair share of accidents within Formula One, including a similar airborne accident at Valencia that took almost every viewer's breath away. He's well known for the mountain biking accidents that plagued his early Red Bull years, but recently things have been more stable.

Unfortunately, his results have tailed off a little - in part thanks to the favouritism shown to his young champion teammate. His last victory was this time last year, at the British Grand Prix, something he will be very keen to emulate this weekend. So far, Webber has nine race wins to his name, which is a very healthy number to retire from Formula One with, and it's a tally that could increase in the twelve events we have left.

There is no substitute

Hey Porsche
Hey PorscheCredit: Andreas Kolarik

Meanwhile, Formula One will be left to adjust to life without the honest and outspoken Australian, and it's a pretty big hole that will need filling. A respectful racer, one of those that drivers can take on and know there will be no errant crashing, Webber has made his mark on the sport and the paddock. No one can forget that move up Eau Rouge, standing up to his team on the radio and in the green room, or jumping into the Energy Station pool to celebrate victory.

There's barely a bad word to be said for the man, but one of the more emotional tributes came to a fellow Aussie and Red Bull(ish) racer, Daniel Ricciardo.

Said it before, been a great asset to the sport. Created a path for young aspiring Aussies like myself to follow and strive for. Thanks for the help @AussieGrit. All the best for the future!

danielricciardo danielricciardo

And there are many more where that came from. From drivers, team members to the media, many of the paddock are wondering just exactly what their F1 lives will be like without a bit of Webber to brighten their day.

Red Bull have more to think about than most, but are naturally keeping quiet on who may replace Mark for 2014. Sebastian Vettel has signed on for another season, so they have the continuity and ego to deal with on that side of the garage. It could be an up and coming racer poached from Toro Rosso or similar, or they may want to strike a deal with an established talent to keep their winning formula on track.

The silly season can begin again in earnest, as we speculate who will attempt to fill those racing boots.