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Red Bull only found out about Mark Webber's decision to leave on Thursday morning

Horner and Vettel kept in the dark over Aussie's intentions

By Mike Wise at Silverstone.   Last Updated: 28/06/13 4:54pm

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Sebastian Vettel and Christian Horner were both left surprised by Mark Webber's decision to quit Red Bull at the end of the season for a new career racing sportscars for Porsche.

Red Bull's Team Principal had little in the way of prior warning, with Horner only finding out when Webber contacted him on Thursday morning. For his part, Vettel found out at much the same time as the rest of the world.

"We found out this morning but I don't know whether people that should be aware knew before or not. I don't count myself as one of those people," Vettel said.

"I think everybody tries to handle things the way he thinks is correct."

It soon became clear that Horner, too, had little in the way of a heads-up that Webber was returning to sportscars, the 36-year-old having also raced them for Mercedes in 1998 and 1999.

"I had a call from Mark this morning at about nine o'clock," he said. "I spoke with him and he said he's reached this decision. In many respects Le Mans has always had a great appeal to Mark, it's where he came from before he came into F1, and he's made no secret of the fact that he'd like to go back there.

"He's obviously decided that the timing is right for him to make that step in his career, and all we can do is wish him the best of luck for the future and thank him for what he's done for the team in the last seven seasons."

Horner admitted that Webber's decision not to inform the team until the last minute had not been ideal. Asked whether they had talked about a contract extension, he replied: "We never got into that discussion."

Horner added: "He's obviously decided to take things into his own hands. The guys at the factory are a bit more disappointed that they read it on the internet rather than heard something direct but that's the way things are sometimes.

"Mark has decided early on, which I think is a positive thing for him and the team, he's counted himself out as far as next year's concerned. He's committed himself to sportscar racing, and the challenges that go with that."

Webber's decision immediately opened speculation about a replacement, with Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen and Toro Rosso youngsters Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo seen as the leading candidates.

Ask who he would prefer, Vettel replied: "I don't know. I haven't really thought about it. Obviously we only found out this morning; we're not in a rush but it's not my call."

Speaking earlier on Thursday, Raikkonen said he would have no problem partnering Vettel. In response, the latter said: "He probably answered the same with less words but I think we get along. It's difficult to have real friends but I've never had any issue with Kimi - I've never had an issue on the track with him.

"I don't know about his situation in Lotus but I think we get along well with each other. Obviously, we've never been team-mates and I'm not deciding whether he will join the team or not.

"I think it's always difficult to know how a relationship is going to be. On the other hand, it doesn't really matter who your team-mate is. When you want to win, you need to beat the rest; whether you have them in your own team or another, it shouldn't really matter."

Vettel has, of course, clashed with Webber on more than one occasion - most notably in Turkey three years ago and also at this year's Malaysian GP - but he reckoned that the state of their relationship has been overplayed by the media.

"I have enormous respect for him on the track but I think, off track, a lot of it has been hyped more than it should have, because there hasn't really been that much going on," he insisted.

"If you look at other team pairings, I think there's worse couples than us in terms of mutual respect. So I don't think I've been in a bad position or he's been in a bad position. Obviously he's quite a bit older than me and maybe it's a different generation, you can argue.

"As a fact, we're not best friends and probably never will be. It was reason enough for you to get excited in the past but it's not a reason for us to try and change at all cost."

He added: "We've probably had enough talks about Malaysia. You can summarise that both of us weren't happy with what happened but I don't think these sorts of things change the world.

"Equally, we had different opinions three years ago now in Turkey and we had a successful time after that."

Don't miss the first two parts of our 'Closer to the Cockpit' series with Mark Webber and Martin Brundle during our British GP Qualifying and Race-Day shows this weekend.

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