Mark Webber will race for Porsche in sports car racing from 2014 after announcing he was ending his 12-year career in Formula One.
The Australian had been contemplating his motor sport future for months, and confirmed speculation yesterday by signing with the German sports car manufacturer.
Webber will compete in Porsche’s new LMP1 sports car program that will take on the World Endurance Championship as well as the famous Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race.
Webber last competed at Le Mans with the Mercedes-Benz factory team in the late 1990s, when he hit the global headlines when his CLR racer backflipped frighteningly at high speed.
“The timing is perfect for me,” Webber said at Thursday’s official Formula One British Grand Prix interview. “I’m starting a new chapter in my career with Porsche, one of the most respected brands in the world, and I’m very excited about it. There are big regulation changes in F1 next year and I feel that I might as well make big changes where my future lies.
“I’ll miss racing against guys like Fernando [Alonso] and Lewis [Hamilton], and I’ll miss the moment when the guys walk away from the car on the grid. That’s the best legal drug you can get. But you’re not 25 forever and it’s important to make the decision to move on at the right time, when you’re still performing at the top.”
Webber has denied his decision to leave F1 is a result of an acrimonious relationship with his Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel, which reached its nadir at the 2013 Malaysian GP when the young German overtook the 36-year-old Australian against team orders.
Webber made his F1 debut in 2002 with the underdog Minardi outfit and immediately caught the paddock’s attention with a battling 5th place in that year’s Australian round.
He then had two-year stints each with Jaguar and Williams F1 before joining Red Bull in 2007. His best season was 2010 when he came close to winning the F1 driver’s title.
Lotus’s Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen is favourite to take the vacated Red Bull seat.