Red Bull Racing driver MARK WEBBER "will quit Formula One after this season to drive for Porsche AG’s team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and other endurance events," according to Alex Duff of BLOOMBERG. Webber said on his website that he had options to stay in F1, without identifying them, but "is sticking to a plan to leave." Red Bull, whose other driver SEBASTIAN VETTEL is the defending champion, said in a statement it will not "pick Webber’s replacement until later in the season." Webber said, "Formula One as a category wasn’t on my radar for 2014. Will I miss some of this? Yes, of course, but time doesn’t stand still for anyone and it’s time to move on to my next challenge" (BLOOMBERG, 6/27). In London, Kevin Eason reported Webber's retirement will "make one of the best seats in the sport available." Webber’s decision "will not surprise the paddock assembling" for the British Grand Prix. His relationship with Vettel "has become increasingly fractious, culminating in the famous spat in Malaysia earlier this year when his German team-mate disobeyed team orders and cost Webber victory." Webber "has been seriously overshadowed by his team-mate, who is 11 years younger and now three world titles up on him" (LONDON TIMES, 6/27).
RED BULL OFF GUARD: In London, Paul Weaver reported Webber "stunned his Red Bull team" when he told them he was quitting "just a few minutes before the official announcement was made by his new employers, Porsche." Red Bull Team Principal CHRISTIAN HORNER said he "was ready to sit down with Webber and talk about a new deal" Monday. Horner, "An hour's notice is a bit short." After consulting his mobile phone Horner confirmed that it "was shorter than that, and a matter of only a few minutes." Horner added, "The guys in the factory will be disappointed that they read it on the Internet and weren't told directly. Mark decided to take matters into his own hands. We wish him all the best in his new career with Porsche" (GUARDIAN, 6/27).
AMICABLE SPLIT: REUTERS' Alan Baldwin reported in a statement, Red Bull thanked Webber "for his extensive contribution in his seven years with the team and their three successive constructors' crowns." Horner, who co-owns a GP3 team with Webber and is close to the Australian, said, "I am sure Mark thought long and hard before making what has no doubt been a very difficult decision." Webber "has renewed his Red Bull contract on a year-by-year basis for some time and his decision to call it a day came as no surprise" (REUTERS, 6/27). The BBC's Andrew Benson reported Webber described it as an "honour" to race for Porsche, saying it "has written racing history as a manufacturer and stands for outstanding performance and technology at the highest level." He added, "I'm very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in Formula 1. I can hardly wait to pilot one of the fastest sports cars in the world" (BBC, 6/27).
MEMORABLE PAST: In Sydney, Andrew MacLean reported Webber "used sports-car competition as a springboard into F1 when he was part of the factory Mercedes-Benz team in 1998 and 1999." After "a series of terrifying accidents during practice" for the 1999 Le Mans 24-hour race, where his car twice became airborne at over 300km/h and flipped through the air, Webber "vowed never to return to the endurance race." Webber, who has scored 36 podium finishes, including nine grand prix victories, and 11 pole positions during his 12-year career, "is the oldest driver" on the F1 grid (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 6/27).