Red Bull Racing has signed Australian Mark Webber to an additional year contract that will see the Formula One veteran through 2013. The team had announced that Webber's win at the British Grand Prix this weekend would not impact the contract negotiations timeline only the then announce they had re-signed him 24 hours later.
Webber is currently second in the World Driver's Championship just behind the man he beat last Sunday at Silverstone. While Ferrari's Fernando Alonso looked to be securing his second win in Britain, Red Bull's Mark Webber promptly stole that victory in the waning laps of the race. That isn't the only thing he stole from Ferrari.
Many fans read the rumours and were excited about a possible move to Ferrari for Webber to team with Alonso for the 2013 season but today's announcement made that future prospect out of reach...at least for next year.
Webber is a veteran in Formula One and a man on the move in 2012. Having secured his second race win this year, the Australian is leading his team in points and finding that his consistency is a powerful negotiating tool come contract extension time.
Some F1 fans considered Webber's career over at Red Bull with another young Australian driver waiting in the wings named Daniel Ricciardo. Others couldn't imagine the idea of not extending Webber's contract such is his impact and benefit to the team. As for Mark's decision process? The team released a Q&A:
Was signing with Red Bull Racing for 2013 an easy decision?
MW: "In the end, yes it was. It's been an interesting few months, but overall the continuity and desire for me to continue at Red Bull Racing was very strong. My main focus is on this year's Championship, which is very important. In addition it's an amazing bunch of guys and girls at Red Bull Racing and I really, really like working with them. That has a huge effect on me and how I perform in the car and it helped me in my decision.
You mention the people, what else is it that you like about the Team and Red Bull?
MW: Well, we have gone through plenty together here. We went from the days when Red Bull had not long owned the team to what it is now. The team really changed when we started to get successful, in terms of getting the balance right between being extremely professional on all fronts to still keeping that laid back and approachable attitude that the team still has within reason. It is just one nice big family now in many ways and we have grown so much. We've come a long way and I think it's clear that I fit well here and that's what I really like about it."
Were you tempted to think about moving elsewhere?
MW: "There were discussions with Ferrari, but my decision was to stay here."
What's the benefit of staying with Red Bull Racing?
MW: "I virtually know everyone's shoe size here! I know everyone's names, I know how everyone ticks and I know all the departments which is very, very important for a driver. There's a whole raft of factors."
And how is working with the Team and with Sebastian Vettel?
MW: "Very good. Obviously with Seb, we've worked very, very close together for a long period of time now. I think no-one would really have envisaged how long we have worked together, so that's probably been a bit of a surprise. There are not many team-mates staying together for that long in Formula One, but it's proved to be a successful partnership with both of us working very hard with the key technical members of the team. It's been a potent operation. We're still competitive when we hit the track, no question about it, especially in 2010 and this year. Last year there wasn't much racing between Sebastian and I, but in 2009, 2010 and this year, there have been some great battles. That's been enjoyable for the team, sometimes stressful too as it's not easy for both of us to be at the front and I can understand that, as both of us are thinking about ourselves sometimes, but ultimately we know that we need to get the cars home and get the best results for us and the team."
Does it help to have contracts sorted earlier in the season?
MW: "Yes it does and that's another reason to just get it to bed. I've been hearing different rumours and reasons for a long time now. At the end of the day I know everything that has been going on. You want to make sure your focus is clearly on driving the car and the guys that you're working with. It's important the team knows you're 100% with them, which, of course, I am."
Will 2013 be your last season in F1?
MW: "I've been asked this question for the past four years and my answer remains the same. It's a results-based sport at the front of the grid so the future lies in my own hands. It's down to me to deliver the on-track results."
Is it the right decision? Has Webber adhered to the old adage, "dance with the one who brought you"? Was skipping a possible stint at Ferrari something the Australian will regret? In the end game, I doubt Webber will regret much in his career and the prospect of driving for Ferrari as a #2 driver to Alonso versus having opportunities to win with Red Bull most likely will be a bit of a no-brainer to be honest.
Webber is known for his forthright nature and I doubt he'll bemoan the lack of a prancing horse on his car so long as the charging bull is capable of winning and with designer Adrian Newey, there is every chance of that in 2013.