Christian Horner says that he didn’t know about Mark Webber’s decision to quit F1 and join Porsche in 2014 until the Aussie telephoned him shortly before today’s announcement from the German marque.
“I had a call from Mark this morning at about nine o’clock,” said Horner. “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.
“He’s got an important job to do for us in the next 12 races as well. We’ll be doing our best to support him in the remaining GPs to try to add to the nine GP victories he’s achieved with the team, and obviously to try to defend the constructors’ World title.”
Despite his upbeat response Horner made it clear that the short notice was frustrating.
“The guys at the factory are a bit more disappointed that they read it on the internet rather than heard something direct.”
Asked whether Webber had the option to stay at RBR he said: “We never got into that discussion.”
Horner insisted that the timing was right for the 36-year-old.
“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.
“It’s probably a fitting time with the regulation changes, which I know he’s not a huge fan of for next year, and that leaves us with the prospect of making sure that we get the right replacement driver alongside Sebastian for 2014.
“A decision for a driver to retire can only come from him. Mark is quite a private person, and he’s reached this decision and then obviously communicated it today.”
Pressed by this writer on whether or not Webber could have given the team more of a heads-up on a decision he says was made some time ago Horner said: “I think for us it makes very little difference. To call time on a career that’s spanned over 10 years is a big decision for any driver, and it’s a difficult decision for any Grand Prix driver to know when it’s the right time to stop. He’s obviously reached that point now and we only have to respect that decision and wish him the very best of luck for the future.”