Red Bull Racing has finally quashed all rumours regarding the future of Mark Webber, by officially announcing that the current F1 2010 World Championship leader has been re-signed for another season at the Milton Keynes-based squad.
Although Webber's stellar form this year – with three straight pole positions from Spain to Turkey, and peerless back-to-back grand prix victories in Barcelona and Monte Carlo to vault the Australian to the top of the title standings for the first time in his top flight career – seemingly made it a no-brainer for the successful partnership to continue into a fifth consecutive campaign, doubts had been raised.
Even prior to the controversial Turkish Grand Prix last time out, the New South Wales native had been speculatively linked with a switch to Ferrari in-place of Felipe Massa in 2011 – and the scant support he received from Red Bull management in the immediate wake of his coming-together with team-mate Sebastian Vettel as the pair duelled over the lead in Istanbul set tongues wagging again, particularly as the vast majority of observers deemed the German to have been the guilty party in the clash.
Former F1 World Champion and World Rally Championship-convert Kimi Raikkonen had been mooted as a potential replacement [see separate story – click here
], but all such talk has now been silenced with the confirmation that Webber is to remain at RBR into 2011 alongside the already-confirmed Vettel – and the 33-year-old admitted he was delighted.
“It was an easy decision to remain with Red Bull Racing,” underlined the man who has scored 193.5 of his 262.5 career points with the energy drinks-backed outfit since 2007. “We began talking very early this year and were in a position to sign by Barcelona. The decision to extend for a further year was a mutual one; it's widely-known that I'm not interested in hanging around in Formula 1 just for the sake of it, and at this stage of my career I'm happy to take one year at a time.
“I continue to feel very comfortable here – I have a fantastic relationship with the whole team, and the factory at Milton Keynes feels like home. It's been incredible to be part of the team as it has moved forward from a midfield competitor to one that is challenging for the championship. I hope we experience more success together in the future and achieve our ultimate goal of winning the world championship.”
“The decision to retain Mark was very straightforward,” concurred Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. “He is an important member of our team and is currently in the best form of his career, as the leader of the drivers' championship. The team is extremely happy that the pairing of Mark and Sebastian will remain unchanged for a third season in 2011.”