Lewis Hamilton options shrink as Red Bull retain Mark Webber


Click to follow
The Independent Online

The door to a possible Red Bull drive for Lewis Hamilton slammed firmly shut yesterday when the Milton Keynes team confirmed that they had re-signed last Sunday's British Grand Prix winner, Mark Webber, for the 2013 season.

There had been speculation, albeit not as much as in 2011, that Hamilton might consider switching from McLaren when his contract runs out at the end of the season.

Webber, who switched from Williams in 2007 and has scored all of his nine grand prix wins with Red Bull, said: "I'm high on confidence at the moment and firing on all cylinders. I know the team well and I'm very comfortable here. We have grown together over the years and it feels like absolutely the right thing to stay for another season.

"They are constantly working hard to improve in all areas and we've shown that together we can win races. It's great to be able to make this announcement off the back of the win in Silverstone at the weekend and I'm looking forward to competing on the edge and pushing myself in every race again next season."

The Red Bull team manager, Christian Horner, said: "Mark has driven very well in the first nine races of this season and his performance has been impressive. Much of his Formula One success has been during his time with Red Bull and together we have achieved 10 poles, nine wins and 31 podiums. As there was a strong desire from both sides to continue the partnership, it was a logical decision to extend our relationship."

Webber said staying with the team with whom he nearly won the 2010 world championship, and for whom his team-mate Sebastian Vettel has won it for the past two seasons, had "in the end" been an easy decision.

"It's been an interesting few months, but overall the continuity and desire for me to continue at Red Bull Racing was very strong." said the Australian. "My main focus is on this year's championship, which is very important. In addition it's an amazing bunch of guys and girls at Red Bull Racing and I really, really like working with them.

"We've gone through plenty together and really changed when we started to get successful, in terms of getting the balance right between being extremely professional on all fronts to keeping that laidback and approachable attitude that the team still has. It's just one big family now. I fit well here. I virtually know everyone's shoe size! I know everyone's names, how everyone ticks and all the departments, which is very, very important."

Webber admitted, however, that he had looked elsewhere: "There were discussions with Ferrari, but my decision was to stay here." That may be good news for Felipe Massa, whose job Webber was slated to take for 2013.

Hamilton's options now appear to be to stay with McLaren or to go to Mercedes if Michael Schumacher is not retained. Though there has been a rapprochement between Hamilton and Fernando Alonso – they each gave the other a helmet at Silverstone, at the British driver's suggestion – Ferrari are not thought to be an genuine option.

After McLaren's disappointment at the weekend, when Hamilton was restricted to eighth place, their team chief, Martin Whitmarsh, said he did not think that performance would have an impact upon Hamilton's decision-making process.

Whitmarsh said: "I think he's smarter than that. My pitch is he's got to want to be in this team, which I believe he does. He knows that racing is highs and lows and this hasn't been one of the high weekends."