Mark Webber leaving F1 at end of season


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The Independent Online

Mark Webber today announced that he will leave Formula One at the end of this season.

The popular 36-year-old Australian will join Porsche's new sportscar programme as they make their long awaited return to the prototype class next year, and he should compete in the classic Le Mans 24 Hours race.

Webber, who has been in Formula One for 12 years, said: "Porsche has written racing history as a manufacturer and stands for outstanding performance and technology at the highest level. I'm very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in Formula 1. I can hardly wait to pilot one of the fastest sports cars in the world."

In his career Webber has won nine grands prix, twice finishing third in the World Championship. He tried 130 times before securing his first Grand Prix victory - at the 2009 German Grand Prix. He has also won the British Grand Prix on two occasions, in 2010 and last year, when he passed Ferrari's Fernando Alonso late in the race.

The Australian has taken part in the Le Mans 24 hours before in 1998 and 1999, though his short sportscar career came to a premature end when he famously flipped his AMG Mercedes GTP on the Mulsanne straight in both the practice and race-day warm-up sessions.

Upon his return to open wheel racing, he signed with F1 backmarkers Minardi, but despite the cars obvious lack of pace, he finished fifth in his very first race - the Australian Grand Prix - to become just the fourth Australian to score a World Championship point.

He later raced for Jaguar and Williams before joining Red Bull in 2007, but it wasn't until 2009 that Red Bull emerged as a front-runner as they grasped the new regulations much sooner than the other teams.

2010 saw him battle with his teammate Sebastian Vettel, Mclaren duo Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton and Alonso of Ferrari for the championship. ultimately finishing third in the driver's standing. But the first signs of tensions between himself and Vettel shone through as they clashed at the Turkish Grand Prix, taking each other out of the front-running having been first and second in the early stages.

These tensions arose once again earlier this season, when Vettel - after being told to maintain position as he followed leader Webber - overtook his teammate to claim the Malaysian Grand Prix victory. Having claimed that Vettel had been favoured in previous seasons when it came to new parts, Webber made no attempt to hide his anger, leading many to question whether he could remain with the team.

Webber will see out the rest of the 2013 season, and he currently lies fifth in the standings with 69 points, 63 behind teammate and leader Vettel.