Australian Formula 1 driver Mark Webber last night ended all of the rumours circulating the pit paddock and announced he will be moving from the Infiniti Red Bull Racing team to be apart of Porsche’s World Endurance Championship sportscar program.
We can’t ignore the fact that Webber and his young German teammate Sebastian Vettel did not get along like a house on fire, but this was not a considering factor of why the Australian decided to leave the sport.
The 36-year-old believed it was perfect timing to join Porsche’s program, as he believes it is a sensational challenge and the perfect timing for his future work.
With Webber announcing this ground-shaking news, I thought it was time that I’d look at the highlights of the Aussie’s racing career and how it all started.
It all began in 1991, when Mark started racing sprint go-karts around Australia competing against some great names in Australian motorsport. It was only a few years later in 1994 when Webber started racing in open-wheelers.
Formula Ford in Australia in the mid-nineties was the lead way for young Australian drivers who wanted to further their motor racing career.
Mark Webber in his Formula Ford
Mark Webber then struggled with funds for his racing, going over to the UK with virtually no money. Webber raced at the prestigious Formula Ford Festival in 1995 at the Brands Hatch circuit, finishing an astonishing third place on debut.
The 19-year-old at the time was then offered a factory drive with Van Diemen to compete in the European and British Formula Ford championships. Webber went on to win the 1996 British Formula Ford festival that year, which in many cases was known to be a gateway for Formula 1.
After competing in Formula Ford for three years, Webber graduated to Formula 3000 with Alan Docking Racing for the 1997 championship in Europe. Without having a stronger financial backing like Webber and his team had in the Formula Ford season, Webber and the team nearly had to pull out of racing the category halfway through. Fortunately an Australian personal investor came on board and financially helped Webber out.
Webber was approached at the end of his Formula 3 campaign by Mercedes-AMG to compete in a sports car race. He traveled all around the world racing at Japan, Europe and the United States, but his sports car career came to an early end after an aerodynamic fault, which caused Webber to go airborne and flip twice in practice for the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Webber escaped without injury, but this ended the Mercedes campaign and saw Webber return to open-wheel racing.
Mark Webber’s aerodynamic failure at Le Mans
Webber made his first steps in Formula 1 in 1999, testing for Arrows F1 team. It wasn’t until 2002 when Mark made his debut racing in Formula 1, where he was teamed up with Minardi Asiatech. Webber impressed on his debut, racing at his home Australian Grand Prix. He qualified 18th for the race, but managed to climb his way through the field to grab fifth place, claiming the first ever points for the Minardi Asiatech team.
2009 marked an important year when Webber was racing for Red Bull that Webber qualified on pole for the first time in Formula 1 at the Nüburgring. This was the first time an Australian driver had claimed pole position since Alan Jones back in 1980. He went on to achieve his first Formula 1 victory despite receiving a drive through penalty early in the race for causing an avoidable collision at the start. Webber went on to dominate the race and win ahead of his teammate Vettel, heading a Red Bull 1–2.
Mark Webber’s debut in Formula 1 finishing in fifth
After the German Grand Prix, Webber was ready to take charge in the championship campaign for 2010, having great success in the season taking victories at the Spanish, Monaco and Hungarian Grand Prix’s. Webber unfortunately lost the championship battle to his younger teammate Sebastian Vettel, but finished in third place.
As the tension grew between Vettel and Webber at Red Bull, Webber was determined to go better in 2011. The Australian had to wait all year to claim victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix, but remained consistent throughout the year to claim third place in the driver’s championship.
After coming so close the previous year’s before for the championship title, Webber in 2012 won the British and Monaco Grand Prix’s, which he claims to this day are his sweetest victories.
Webber this year haven’t yet claimed a race victory and is currently sixth in the championship, so it was very interesting to find out that he announced the end of his Formula 1 campaign. He has come so close, yet for the 36-year-old other plans have come in the way and the Aussie believes Porsches is the way to go.
Mark Webber celebrating at Monaco in 2012
Despite having a huge crash at Le Man’s many years ago in his AMG-Mercedes, Webber believes he can overcome his fear of racing at Le Mans and give it a red hot go.
All the best to Webber and his sports car career, it will be sad to see an Australian leave the sport who has brought much joy to the Formula 1 paddock and will be sadly missed.
– Let’s see if our young Aussie driver at Toro Rosso Daniel Ricciardo can take his seat at Red Bull Racing!