Sky Sports F1's team give their reaction to Mark Webber's decision to leave Red Bull
Our team have their say on the big news in Formula 1 ahead of the British Grand Prix
By William Esler and Mike Wise. Last Updated: 27/06/13 1:50pm
David Croft, Ted Kravitz, Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill have their say on Mark Webber's decision to leave Formula 1 at the end of the season and debate who could replace him at Red Bull.
Ted: "We always knew after Malaysia when Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders and passed him, we all knew Mark Webber was finished at Red Bull - he had had enough of being kicked by Sebastian Vettel. But I did not expect him to leave F1 completely - I thought he might go to Ferrari or another team just to have another year in the sport and see what next year's regulations might do.
"But maybe on the other hand, I got the feeling that he is a bit frustrated this year by the rules and maybe he looked at next year and where it is going and thought I don't want to be a part of this."
Crofty: "You have to look at his age, he is 36, 37 in August, his 204th grand prix comes along this weekend which moves him alongside Nelson Piquet Snr in the all-time list. So he is not a man in his junior years and he is looking at 'right, what am I going to do after Formula 1' and it is not every day a multi-year deal comes along to join Porsche and race in endurance racing comes your way.
"So I think the timing was absolutely perfect for Webber. Malaysia might have just tipped him over the edge and helped make up his mind, but I got the feeling when we went to Australia and Mark hosted an evening for the media - which he hasn't ever done before - and got all his mates from the media to come and have a meal with, this was him saying, 'Prepare yourselves this is my last year in F1'.
"He didn't say it that night, but there have been enough hints over the races, including Malaysia, that we will be saying goodbye to Mark at the end of the season and I think it is a real shame for the sport that we are losing a guy of a) his ability and b) his gravitas - if you had an issue to talk about it F1 you went to Mark Webber."
Should we read anything into this that it didn't come out from an official Red Bull statement?
Ted: "Oh yes, Mark has had it with Red Bull, there is no question about that. After Malaysia he was done with this team privately. We asked him, 'Come on, there is no way you can stay at this team' and whilst he couldn't say, 'Yes you're right mate,' he was like, 'Well let's see what the future brings'.
"So we always knew after Malaysia that this was Vettel's team, he was over it and had checked out mentally at Red Bull. So I would not have expected him to go and make nice and say, 'Let's put together a nice friendly press release', he was always going to do it on his terms. I was a bit surprised to see it at Silverstone though, I thought maybe he would wait until a bit later in the season."
Crofty: "But he likes to make an impression here - he has won here in the past, 'Not bad for a number two driver'. Something about Silverstone and Mark Webber always creates a big headline, so why not do it even before the grand prix starts."
Ted: "Mark Webber is a driver who thrives off energy, whether it is positive or negative and sometimes in the past, the way Christian Horner has got the best performances out of Mark is to create bad headlines around him to get him angry with the team and get him motivated."
How will he be remembered? As a nearly man?
Crofty: "In terms of being a title winner, then yes, he was the man who could have gone to Abu Dhabi [in 2010] and should have gone to Abu Dhabi and come back as World Champion, so from that respect yes.
"But I think he will be remembered as a gusty, gritty driver, who sadly was up against a formidable team-mate in Sebastian Vettel in his later years. But look at that wonderful drive to fifth place for Minardi [in Australia] in 2002. Look at some of the drives he did at Williams when the car sadly let him down - he should have been winning long before he did at the Nurburgring [in 2009]."
Ted: "Two things. Firstly on the title thing, you are absolutely right - Korea 2010, on that rainy day he threw away his best chance of a title. But secondly, my first response this morning when I heard Mark Webber retiring was, 'What a shame,' and that is a response I expect to be echoed up and down the paddock.
"This is a motor racing paddock full of kids - most drivers in this paddock are kids - but Mark Webber was an adult, he was a grown up and was respected and loved for that."
Who will replace him at Red Bull?
Crofty: "The trouble that Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo have is that the Toro Rosso they have got is not the car Sebastian Vettel was driving in 2008 to make their mark. Are they good enough? Probably as a number two driver to Sebastian Vettel, but do Red Bull want a number two driver, or do they want a number one driver? Do they want to win a title with either driver or is this Sebastian Vettel's team?
"This is going to be fascinating to see who they go for. The big name that we haven't mentioned yet is Kimi Raikkonen. He is out of contract next year, he has been supported by Red Bull in his rallying days and is a great fit in marketing terms and their desire to win. But does Kimi Raikkonen want to come to Sebastian Vettel's backyard and play at Red Bull? You would be a big man if you are Kimi Raikkonen to take that on board but he has the ability to do it."
Ted: "I would be surprised if the Kimi Raikkonen deal is not already done. Kimi knows Lotus have never been flush with cash and it is money that talks in F1 - they have recently had to sell off 30 per cent to a foreign investor so they obviously need the cash. Kimi has status at Lotus - he wouldn't have that at Red Bull - but he would let his driving to the talking. I think Raikkonen is favourite for Webber's drive."
Johnny, does the move come as a surprise?
Johnny: "No. I spoke to him in China and he told me that he had spoken to Porsche but he said he hadn't done anything. He has a background of racing at Le Mans, he likes Le Mans, he's not afraid of Le Mans and I think he wants to go there to win.
"He's 36 and knows he's coming to the end of his F1 career. Porsche are going to be one of the top sportscar teams and they're saying, 'Come and join us'. It's just that the timing is right for Mark to move on.
"What happened in Malaysia made it very difficult for Mark to continue."
Do you think he was discussing a move to Porsche before Malaysia?
Johnny: "Probably yes. The Porsche thing started last year, and I imagine he was on their list early on."
Do you think the fractiousness at Red Bull was a factor? Or is it simply the right time for him?
Johnny: "I think both. He's 36 and still quick - that's not an issue. But there is a point when your F1 career comes to an end and it is that point for him. And it's a great opportunity for him to carry on racing. If he carries on in F1, he would miss this opportunity. If you want to go back to Le Mans, that's the team you want to be with."
In China, Webber likened current F1, with its deliberate tyre wear, to the WWF. There is a theory that, in sportscars, you can actually push harder?
Johnny: "I've heard that. But watching Le Mans at the weekend, there was still talk of looking after tyres. There's still an element of it. When I raced there, it was still pretty flat-out. But flat-out in an F1 car and flat-out in sportscars are two very different animals. Driving a sportscar around Le Mans is quite easy. It's not that physically demanding.
"With F1 tyres, even when they're off, they're still way quicker than a sportscar. Physically and mentally, it's still tougher."
Damon, your thoughts on the news?
Damon: "I think we were all prepared. There was a rumour and I think his timing is very good. He's announced it at the right time, in the right way. Getting into F1 is hard, getting out of it is even harder!
"He's done more than he ever thought was probably possible at one stage. He still has a lot to give, although he knows that, in F1, to slide down the greasy pole after being at the sharp end is very demotivating.
"I'm a big fan of Mark's. I identify with how tough it is, and how determined he was, to get there. He came up the hard way, never gave up and I think he knows he gave it everything he possibly could. He'll be able to walk away from F1 with a sense of pride, which is really important."
Who do you think should replace him?
Damon: "It would fit the brand to have someone like Kimi, who's rebellious - Red Bull-ious! - he'd fit that ethos very well."
Raikkonen is a better candidate than either Toro Rosso driver?
Damon:"If you're interested in building a brand and racing in F1, why would you take someone who's not won a grand prix over someone who's won a World Championship? Someone who has shown his prowess - and he's still got it.
"You've got a double whammy effect. You don't want Kimi Raikkonen as a loose cannon around the F1 paddock when you could actually have him in your own team."
Do you think Vettel would relish the challenge?
Damon: "I think it would be very interesting. It might answer a lot of peoples' criticisms that Vettel has an easy ride with the team, although I don't think Mark's given him an easy ride - I think he's had to fight.
"I'm sure Kimi will find out, if he goes there, that Sebastian Vettel is going to be pretty tough to beat. It would be very interesting to watch. The sport has always benefited from two World Champions in the same team, because you know the calibre of the competition both within the team and also the power they have against other teams."
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