Red Bull Racing will keep the same driver line-up for at least one more season after the team made the rather hastily-timed announcement that it has agreed to terms for Mark Webber to continue with them for a seventh consecutive season.
The announcement comes less than two days after Webber claimed his second win of the season with an excellent drive at the British Grand Prix.
In the hours leading up to his victory, we had reported that Webber was giving every hint that he would remain with the team, rather than jump ship and take up a possible vacancy that could emerge at Ferrari, should the Italian team decide to dump Felipe Massa.
“I’ve been with Red Bull Racing since 2007 and have achieved nine Grand Prix wins during that time,” the 35-year-old said in a team media release.
“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 with Red Bull for another season.
“The team is 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.”
Webber also used the press release to admit to having contract conversations with Ferrari, which is itself unusual to announce,
“There were discussions with Ferrari, but my decision was to stay here,” he added. “I virtually know everyone’s shoe size! I know everyone’s names, I know how everyone ticks and I know all the departments which is very, very important for a driver.”
This makes the timing and contents of the announcement all the more interesting. Red Bull Racing typically doesn’t rush into making their driver announcements until a little later in the season, and one could suggest that Webber’s recent success gave him all the bargaining power to get the contract signed and announced on his terms while he remains in the headlines following his Silverstone win.
The announcement also plays havoc with other drivers’ possible plans in the 2012-3 driver market, and with Webber now locked in where he is, this closes the avenue that Lewis Hamilton possibly had to up sticks from McLaren and take the Australian’s seat at Red Bull, as had been quietly rumoured.
What we’re likely to see is that Hamilton will negotiate a short contract extension with McLaren in the hope that other opportunities with rival outfits could materialise.
The main focus of interest in the driver market will be in what Ferrari decides to do with Felipe Massa, as well as what decision Michael Schumacher makes to continue in F1 with Mercedes.