Mark Webber's decision to quit F1 and head for Porsche's nascent sports prototype programme in 2014 continues to provide the biggest source of column inches through the sport's summer break, but taking that step cannot have been easy for the Australian.
That is the view of former F1 driver Mark Blundell, who also decided to throw his lot in with another series when he realised that he wasn't necessarily going to get what his contract promised. While the subject of Webber's replacement continues to entertain the media, Blundell sympathises with the Red Bull
“It's never a decision a driver wants to have to make, especially when he knows he's still got the speed to be in a grand prix car,” the Briton wrote in his latest Motor Sport
column, “Not only that, Mark's walking away from a front-running team with Adrian Newey behind the drawing board.
“I think he must be tired of the politics of F1. As good as driving for a world champion team can be, he hasn't had an easy ride there and, after this year's Malaysian Grand Prix, it's become clear that he'll never be given the upper hand, no matter what his contract says.”
The 'Multi21' saga that enveloped the second round of the 2013 world championship back in March provoked the first suggestions that Webber would look to move on, both from Red Bull
and F1, but confirmation that he was Porsche-bound didn't materialise until late June, when the Australian used the British Grand Prix
to reveal his future plans. Despite repeated assurances that RBR would treat its two drivers equally, there were always suspicions that Sebastian Vettel
was being favoured by the squad, and Sepang – where he barged his way past Webber and into the lead, despite team orders to hold station – no doubt played a big part in the Australian's decision not to ink another one-year extension to his current deal.
“I can understand his dilemma,” Blundell continued, “When I left F1 after the 1995 season, I was pretty disillusioned. I had an agreement in place – with a team that's still in F1 today – and thought I was all set for the next year, but then it was decided that I was surplus to requirements and I was out on my ear.
“I was fed up with all the politics, so I went to America and raced for PacWest in CART. It was a big change, but it was an exciting time in my career and a new chapter for my family. I won three races in 1997 and I can look back on that time fondly.
“But is it F1? No. Even though CART was a great series, it was always in the back of your mind that you'd come from racing the best drivers in the world, in the best cars and on the best circuits. Once you've been in that arena, you miss it.”
Webber will not be entering new territory when he joins up with Porsche next season, having already tasted the highs and lows of sportscar racing with Mercedes before he got his break in F1, and Blundell reckons that veteran will be a hit in a burgeoning environment.
“Sportscar racing's on the up and up, and who better to jump back in with than Porsche?” he suggested, “He's got unfinished business after his ill-fated attempts at Le Mans with Mercedes, and Porsche have more wins there than any other manufacturer. The company will expect to do well after a short period of time and he'll be spearheading the driving side of the operation...”