The Australian Grand Prix Corporation congratulates Mark Webber on a sensational career and wishes him the best of luck for the next chapter, following his announcement to retire from Formula One at the end of the 2013 season.
Webber will finish a 12-year career at the pinnacle of world motorsport when he leaves Infiniti Red Bull Racing after this year’s season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix in November. In a career that has seen him drive for Minardi, Jaguar, Williams and Red Bull Racing, Webber has won nine Grands Prix, taken 11 pole positions and finished on the podium on 36 occasions.
The 36-year-old will spearhead the return of German car manufacturer Porsche to Le Mans in 2014, returning to sports cars after a two-year stint with Mercedes in 1998-99.
Webber’s Formula One career started with a fairytale fifth-place finish at the 2002 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, driving for the backmarker Minardi team, owned by Australian businessman Paul Stoddart. Images of Webber and Stoddart celebrating on the podium in front of a packed house at Albert Park remain some of the most enduring in the sport’s 18-year history in Melbourne.
Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman Ron Walker AC CBE said Webber’s long contribution to the Australian Grand Prix and the sport of Formula One will always be remembered.
“Mark’s debut here in 2002 is one of the highlights of hosting a Formula One World Championship event in Australia,” Mr Walker said.
“From such an auspicious beginning, we’ve seen Mark grow as a driver and a person to become one of the very best in his field in a global sport, and all Australians have been thrilled by his efforts.”
“Mark ranks alongside Alan Jones MBE and Sir Jack Brabham AO OBE as true legends of Formula One.”
“His contribution to the popularity of the sport in his home country cannot be underestimated, and we wish him all the best in the next phase of his career.”
With Webber’s departure from the sport, attention will swiftly turn towards the Australian’s replacement, with Infiniti Red Bull Racing issuing a statement on Thursday that the announcement of a teammate for three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel will be made later in the season.
One of the drivers likely to be in the frame for the vacant seat with the reigning F1 constructors’ champions, is Webber’s compatriot Daniel Ricciardo. The 23-year-old West Australian is currently competing in his second full season for Red Bull’s sister squad, Scuderia Toro Rosso.
CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, Andrew Westacott said local Formula One fans have every reason to be excited about the prospect of another Australian joining the pointy end of the grid.
“Daniel has shown that he has the skill and potential for a very big future in Formula One, and as Australians, it would be wonderful to think he could step into Mark’s very big shoes at Red Bull,” Mr Westacott said.
“While acknowledging Mark’s achievements and feeling some sadness that his time in Formula One is coming to an end, we are excited to see what the 2014 season will bring.”