Mark Webber - Red Bull Racing photoEnlarge Photo
The Australian has signed a multi-year contract with Porsche which means he will no longer be racing in F1 from next year onwards. Competing in the new LMP1 car alongside Webber are the two long-standing Porsche works drivers Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas as well as former F1 test driver Neel Jani, who was also confirmed as part of the squad today.
It’s not clear who will fill Webber’s Red Bull Racing seat next year but there have been rumors of Lotus driver Kimi Räikkönen possibly switching teams. A lesser possibility is fellow Aussie Daniel Ricciardo who currently races for the Red Bull feeder team Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Webber, 36, is no stranger to Le Mans, having already raced there twice. In 1998 he finished runner-up in the FIA GT Championship at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz CLR prototype.
He has also been closely linked with Porsche for several years and even bought a 911 GT2 as one of his personal cars. He also sampled Porsche's last Le Mans winner, the 1998 911 GT1, at a Red Bull event in 2012.
Over the course of his F1 career from 2002 until today, Webber has achieved 36 podium places, nine victories and has started from pole eleven times. But despite this performance, there has been plenty of speculation the Aussie was planning to ditch F1, especially after Sebastian Vettel’s ignoring of team orders at the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix, which saw Webber’s win virtually stolen by his team-mate. There was also no mention of Webber’s future with the Red Bull Racing team at the announcement of Vettel’s contact extension earlier this month.
“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,” Webber said at today’s announcement. “I’m very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in F1.”
Currently, Porsche plans to field two LMP1 cars in the 2014 WEC and Le Mans, which means two more drivers are yet to be announced. However, there are rumors that Porsche may field a third car to help boost its chances of dethroning longstanding champions Audi.
2014 Porsche Le Mans prototype (LMP1)Enlarge Photo