It was somewhat expected that Mark Webber was going to leave Formula 1, after the events and discomfort in Malaysia, but after reports said he was close to signing a new contract with Red Bull Racing, we were all a bit surprised at the news this morning. Porsche sports car programme announced earlier today that Mark had signed a multi year contract with the team, and is to take part in races like Le Mans 24 hours race.
During Mark’s time in Formula 1, he’s drove for Minardi, Jaguar, Williams and Red Bull. In 2002 Mark drove his Minardi to an impressive 5th place [Minardi’s first points since 1999], after suffering with damage to his differential he managed to defend off Mika Salo in a fast moving Toyota. During the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2003, Mark qualified his Jaguar in 3rd place, not only his career-best [at the time] but the best qualifying position for Jag in the 4 years that they’d raced in Formula 1. In the aftermath of the 2005 Malaysian Grand Prix, it emerged that Mark had been competing despite having a fractured rib that he picked up from the pre-season testing in Barcelona. That same year, Mark achieved his first podium position at the Monaco Grand Prix finishing 3rd, behind his team-mate Nick Heidfeld who was in 2nd.
2007 was when we saw Mark move up to Red Bull Racing, and in the Japanese Grand Prix was still suffering from food poisoning – but a crash with soon to be team-mate Vettel put them both out of the race. In 2009 Mark achieved his first pole position and his first race win at the German Grand Prix, despite having to take a drive through penalty early on in the race. During the 2010 season Mark appeared on the podium 10 times, including 4 wins in Spain, Monaco, Britain and Hungary. 2011 saw his team-mate Sebastian Vettel’s dominance, but with the help from Mark, Red Bull picked up their first of three constructors championships. Last season Mark inherited pole position in Monaco, and won for the second time, as well as taking the win at the British Grand Prix.
Mark has been key to the Red Bull Racing dominance, producing a good flow of steady points, however his relationship with team-mate Sebastian Vettel has been tricky. Sebastian ignored team orders in Malaysia, and went on to pass Mark for the win, even though ‘multi-21’ was being repeated over the radio. The German initially apologised for his actions, but later went on to defend himself by saying ‘I was faster, I passed him, I won’ and later added that he may disobey orders again. Mark however has said that this wasn’t the reason for his departure, but instead he’s looking for a new challenge adding that ‘Porsche will undoubtedly set itself very high goals. I can hardly wait to pilot one of the fastest sports cars in the world’.
When you look back on his career, especially his early career with Jaguar, it’s clear that Mark will be happy with his time in Formula 1. He’s had some hefty crashes [Brazil 2003 & Valencia 2010] but it’s fair to say that this talent hasn’t gone to waste. His overtake on Fernando Alonso at Eau Rouge will always be one of my favourite manoeuvres, and let’s not forget his say-it-as-it-is attitude or his off track sense of humour – like labelling Romain Grosjean as a ‘first lap nutcase’. Or maybe his ‘not bad for a number two driver’ comment over the radio at the British Grand Prix in 2010.
So, who would be replacing the Aussie? Kimi Raikkonen was once upon a time in with a shot, but since writing this, it was announced that Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso driver) was to replace the Australian. Daniil Kvyat will fill Dan’s vacated seat alongside Jean-Eric Vergne.