Webber: Ferrari lost out in game of pros and cons
12 July 2012
Mark Webber admits that he could have been enticed by the lure of racing for the biggest name in motorsport had it not been for realising the greater benefits of inking yet another one-year extension with Red Bull Racing.
The Australian's new deal was announced within 48 hours of him winning his second British Grand Prix in three years, and put an end to suggestions that he may be poised to replace Felipe Massa alongside good friend Fernando Alonso at Ferrari. While Massa's hold on the second Prancing Horse remains tenuous, Webber admitted that, for all the ups and downs he has endured at RBR since being paired with Sebastian Vettel, there were too many compelling reasons to re-sign with the team.
"Although I did have talks with Ferrari, staying with Red Bull was the right thing to do," he wrote in his regular column for BBC Sport, "I pretty much told Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz and team principal Christian Horner two or three years ago that I would finish my career with Red Bull. I'm sure everyone understands the lure of racing for Ferrari but, in the end, there were just too many pros to staying at Red Bull Racing - it was as simple as that.
"The fact that I am trying to win the championship this year was also a consideration - it would have been that bit harder to keep the momentum going if I was moving to a rival team. That was a factor, but it was certainly not the biggest one. I've been there since 2007, just two years after the team was formed, and we have built a fantastic team. We've won the last two drivers' and constructors' championships and we're right in the fight again this year. It's very hard to turn your back on that sort of performance. "
Webber's win at Silverstone on Sunday - when he hunted Alonso down and claimed the lead with just four laps remaining - consolidated his position as chief pursuer to the Spaniard in this year's championship and made him only the second driver, after Alonso, to win more than one race in 2012.
"Because I'm 36 this summer, people are always asking me when I'm going to retire," he admitted, "But I'm not thinking about that at all. The contract is just for one year, but I'm looking to stay in F1 for longer than that.
"I watched an interview with [Manchester United football star] Ryan Giggs the other day and he was saying that you relax and enjoy it a bit more as you get older. You know you're closer to the end than the beginning, so you want to make the most of the situation you're in. You try to do that bit more, you perform better because you're that bit wiser and you get better results, so you end up staying longer anyway.
"It's an immensely challenging job trying to get the best out of an F1 car and I'm competing with the best drivers in the world. It doesn't get much better than what happened on Sunday - how we won and who we beat. I said to a friend the other day [that it was] a nice podium shot from Silverstone - with Fernando on the right and Sebastian on the left - and how do you replace that when you're not racing any more? Hopefully, I won't have to find an answer to that question for a while."
Ironically, where Webber was adjudged to be one of the keys to this year's F1 driver market, his decision to re-up with Red Bull could lead to very little change in the line-ups of the biggest teams.
With Massa claiming fourth on one of his strongest runs for a while on Sunday, Ferrari has come out and said that it is in no rush to confirm its decision on Alonso's team-mate next season, while Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher could also now stay put, despite being tabbed for a move and return to retirement respectively.
Despite this week's suggestion that he could be Lotus-bound in 2013, Hamilton is more than likely to bite the bullet and remain with McLaren now that Red Bull is no longer an option. Alonso's presence at Ferrari was always likely to deter the Briton from transferring to the Scuderia, leaving Schumacher's future as perhaps the one sticking point in his decision process.
The German has shown another upturn in form this year, securing pole in Monaco and third on the grid at Silverstone, sandwiching a return to the podium in Valencia's European Grand Prix two weeks ago. The third place finish, behind Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, was the seven-time champion's first since returning to F1 in 2010, but his Mercedes team has said that it does not expect an announcement on Schumacher's future to materialise until some time into the forthcoming summer break.
Although Vettel, too, has been linked to a Ferrari move, it would not happen until 2014 at the earliest, possibly giving Massa a stay of execution while the Scuderia waits to create perhaps the most potent pairing in modern F1. Although Hamilton and Sauber's Sergio Perez remain considerations for the management at Maranello, neither is likely to accept a one-year deal with Vettel possibly waiting in the wings. If either appears in scarlet next year, consider the rumour mill to have been wrong, with Perez the more likely to make the move to Italy should the team be able to look past the rawness it has previously claimed works against the Mexican.