Christian Horner reckons that Mark Webber could have been a factor in F1 for some time had he not decided to retire and head for a return to sportscars from 2014.

Having inked a series of one-year extensions to his contract with Horner's Red Bull Racing team, Webber's decision to quit the top flight caught the Briton by surprise, but Horner acknowledges that the driver's heart may no longer have been in it. Webber announced his impending retirement from F1 at the British Grand Prix, confirming speculation that he would join the nascent Porsche sports prototype programme instead of continuing to fight in a series that he no longer agreed with.

"Mark's chosen to leave and only he knows the full reasons behind that," Horner told Reuters in Singapore, "In terms of his performance and capability, I think he could have done another couple of years, but I think he's fallen out of love a little with F1."

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While publicly outspoken over the current need to manage tyres in the top flight, and facing a new era where fuel consumption will become a key factor, Webber has also had to contend with a team-mate not only at the top of his game, but also seemingly with the full backing of the Red Bull organisation.

While Webber insists that his mind to retire had been made before the start of the season, being denied victory in Malaysia amid the 'Multi21' affair probably eased his decision, after the team chose only to admonish Sebastian Vettel for barging his way into the lead when both drivers were supposed to hold station. The German, who has now won six races on the season, appears a certainty for title number four, while Webber is battling for a top five finish on which to end his F1 career.

"Could he have stayed in F1 for another year or two?" Horner questioned, "He is fit enough, he is quick enough, so I would have thought he could have."