Mark Webber will retire from driving at the end of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship season, with the Australian set to move into an special representative (ambassadorial) role for Porsche instead.
Webber’s move into the FIA WEC coincided with Porsche’s return to LMP1 in 2014. Along with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley, the trio won last year’s World Championship.
They’ve also won the last three races this year but owing to a slow start, seem doubtful to repeat as World Champions. As it is, Webber’s driving career now has just three races left – Fuji this weekend, then Shanghai and Bahrain after that.
“I have arrived where I belong,” Webber said in a release. “Porsche is the brand I always loved most and the one that suits me the best. The 911 is iconic – it has got elegance, performance and understatement, and is never intrusive. It is just the right car for every scenario. I will miss the sheer speed, downforce and competition, but I want to leave on a high and I’m very much looking forward to my new tasks.”
“Mark Webber stands for everything what Porsche implies: sportsmanship, power of endurance, straightforwardness and focused work for success. He is full of beans and always a thoughtful listener. I want to thank Mark for his great performance in the World Endurance Championship and am pleased he will remain tightly connected to Porsche in the future,” added Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Dr. Ing h.c. F. Porsche AG.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1, thanked Webber for his contribution to the program.
“Already in the important period of building up the program, Mark has strengthened us with all his experience and he seamlessly integrated himself into the team,” he said.
“Behind the wheel he is a fair fighter, never shy of even the toughest wheel-to-wheel battle. At the same time, he thinks strategically and is team orientated. This mixture makes him invaluable as an endurance racer.
“Winning the 2015 drivers’ world championship together with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley almost seemed to be a logical consequence. Also thanks to his performance, we hope to win the world championship titles for manufacturers and drivers again in 2016.”
Of course, prior to his switch to the FIA WEC, Webber competed in 215 Grands Prix from 2002 to 2013, where he amassed nine wins (all with Red Bull Racing) and 42 podiums.
Webber joins a list of high-profile factory LMP1 drivers who’ve retired from the FIA WEC in successive years. Dindo Capello, Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen retired from Audi in 2012, 2013 and 2014, with Toyota’s Alexander Wurz retiring last year.
Porsche has factory drivers waiting in the wings to step up to a full-time LMP1 seat; Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber famously won last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in Porsche’s third Porsche 919 Hybrid with Nico Hulkenberg. But having tested last year in Bahrain and being a free agent, could this be a landing spot for Juan Pablo Montoya? Only time will tell.