Porsche holds the keys to any Mark Webber announcement

2 Comments

Mark Webber’s future both with Red Bull and in Formula One has been a hot-button issue since Malaysia, but rumors of his departure intensified this weekend.

Webber, who raced in sports cars before moving to Formula 3000 and then making his F1 debut in 2002, is linked to a seat at the Porsche factory LMP1 prototype team from 2014. Radio Le Mans, the radio broadcaster of the FIA World Endurance Championship, cited an unconfirmed report that a deal is already in place between Webber and Porsche at this weekend’s WEC race in Silverstone.

The nature of announcements with manufacturers in sports car racing is very much a process. Porsche hasn’t yet premiered its car, or named its drivers for its LMP1 program. However, they are expected to be a mix of its factory drivers (it has 10 at the moment spread throughout its worldwide racing programs) and potentially several outsiders.

The 10 Porsche factory drivers for this year are: Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Long, Patrick Pilet, Wolf Henzler, Marc Lieb, Richard Lietz, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, Marco Holzer and its newest factory driver, Nick Tandy.

It’s not as simple as if Webber and Porsche can just come out and say there is an agreement in place. The process could entail whether Webber would be joining Porsche as a factory driver, whether it would need to remove any of its current 10 to make way, and how the two collectively would go about making any announcements. The official news would likely come from Porsche confirming Webber, not the other way around.

There will undoubtedly be more to this story as the year presses on, but nothing will be official until Porsche confirms it one way or another. Porsche denied Webber’s potential future involvement this weekend, but it could well be just a temporary stance.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”