Former Van Diemen racer Mark Webber happy to walk out on Red Bull and Formula One
- Credit: PA
The glint in the eye of Mark Webber was clear as news of the one-time Norfolk racer's Formula One exit dominated the build-up to this weekend's British Grand Prix.
It was with Attleborough's Van Diemen that Webber got his first single-seater chance in the UK after moving from Australia as a 19-year-old in 1996 – and 17 years later, Webber confirmed 2013 would be his last in Formula One after deciding to join Porsche's sportscar and Le Mans programme next year.
Porsche made the surprise announcement on Thursday morning – which informed many at his Red Bull team, as well as the general public.
And given Webber's at times fractious relationship with his current Milton Keynes bosses and team-mate Sebastian Vettel, that may not have been an accident.
'It was about Porsche and Mark Webber today,' said the 36-year-old. 'Dietrich (Mateschitz, Red Bull team founder) has been completely up to speed with my thinking over the last eight months, and he's been absolutely on board and on message with where I have been at. He encouraged me not to rush my decision when I approached him earlier in the season.
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'I'm very proud of where I have come from. I don't forget the street where I grew up on in Australia. Formula One is the pinnacle, working with people like Adrian Newey.
'But you're not 25 for ever, so you've got to get the timing and decision right, and stop when you're still performing well and you believe it's right.'
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It was 12 months ago at Silverstone that Webber confirmed he would race for a seventh season with Red Bull – and while no one said directly, events in Malaysia earlier this year likely helped Webber decide on something different when F1 returned to the UK.
The second round of the season saw Vettel ignore team orders to snatch victory from his team-mate, even though Webber had turned down the settings on his car believing the German would not challenge his lead.
It was not the first collision between the Red Bull's drivers and with 12 races of the year still to run, it may not be the last. But Webber is fully focused on ending his 12th F1 season on a high.
'It doesn't change a huge amount for the remaining races because I've known the decision for a while,' said Webber. 'It's out there now, but it's still in my interests to keep my motivation to win races right up to Brazil – for me and the guys.'
As for Vettel, he maintains too much as been made of his upsets with Webber: 'I don't think Malaysia changed it one day to the next,' said the championship leader.
'I have enormous respect for Mark as a driver. Off the track it's been hyped more than it should. If you look at the grid, there are worse couples than us in terms of mutual respect.
'We are not best friends and probably never will be, but that's not a reason for us to change things at all costs.'
The discussion over who will replace Webber at Red Bull started almost immediately – although Webber preferred to keep his vote to himself when pushed on who it should be: 'I'll watch with interest mate.'