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Porsche refutes Webber WEC rumours

15 April 2013

Porsche has acted quickly to squelch a storm of rumours that circulated on Sunday suggesting that Red Bull's F1 driver Mark Webber had already signed a five-year deal to lead their rebooted World Endurance Championship project starting in 2014.

The rumours broke ahead of the WEC Six Hours At Silverstone event even as Mark Webber was at work in Shanghai racing in the 2013 F1 Grand Prix of China. The race ended badly for Webber, who crashed into another car early in the race and then had a wheel fall off on his out-lap after a pit stop went wrong.

It's just the latest in a litany of woes for Webber, who is currently on a one-year extension to his F1 contract with Red Bull but who seems increasingly unlikely to continue with the team after the end of 2013 - especially following his recent bust-up with team mate Sebastian Vettel over team orders.

No wonder, then, that when Radio Le Man aired a report over the weekend that Webber had already signed off on the deal to move to Porsche and head up their new WEC LMP sportscar programme for five years commencing in 2014, it had the ring of truth to it for many who felt that Webber now couldn't wait to turn his back on F1 and find a new challenge elsewhere.

However Wolfgang Hatz, the member of Porsche AG Board of Management in charge of research and development, said that this wasn't the case and that the rumours were wrong: "There is a test plan, and for sure Mark Webber is not part of them," he told AutoAction later on Sunday.

"We can have perhaps some F1 drivers in the future, but it is not necessary," he continued. "We will use some of our own drivers and add some external drivers - we have two cars and need six drivers next year.

"We still have plenty of time to decide our driver line up," he added. "What we need is the best combination of drivers that fit together. LMP1 is a team sport, and if you have three of the quickest drivers I am not sure that this is the best way."

Webber was previously a Mercedes works driver at Le Mans in 1999, but he hasn't returned to sportscar racing since he moved into F1. However this weekend's rumours are not the first to link the Australian to a move to Porsche next season.

German newspaper Bild had previously noted that Webber was in talks with the company following the acrimonious end to the Malaysian Grand Prix which saw Sebastian Vettel ignore team orders to pass Webber in the closing laps and claim the victory, to the detriment of Webber who obeyed the instructions from pit wall.

And close analysis of Hatz's weekend rebuttal suggests that while certainly no deal is currently in place, it's also far from completely ruled out in the future by Porsche.

Webber himself has not made any comment or reference to the weekend's rumours linking him with a move to WEC, and has not mentioned the matter on either his official Twitter feed or in his latest website blog entry following the Chinese GP on Sunday afternoon in Shanghai.


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