On Thursday Mark Webber announced his intention to retire at the end of the WEC Season. Speaking with the media on Friday Webber admitted that he first thought about the idea of retirement back in May. Webber’s reasoning behind his planned retirement is he no longer believes he can put 100% of himself behind his racing career. He is unsure if he really wants to deal with the grind associated with racing.
“Life rolls along pretty quick. It’s hard to do this job half-hearted. You have to really involve yourself. Also with the testing that’s involved and all things that come along, but the real drug, which is the racing, is what your always after. I can’t do that half-hearted. Individually you can maybe justify it to yourself, but you can never ever justify it to the team environment. If you can’t have the passion and motivation to go to [Motorland] Aragon at 3 a.m… These type of things obviously add up and I want to be very fair to Porsche and everyone involved. I’ve seen a lot of movies in my mind, both very positive and some rather tricky situations in my career. But overall I’m immensely proud to have had great people around me throughout my career.”
While winning 7 races and the World Championship in 2015 Webber was unable to win at Le Mans.
“Le Mans is a pretty intense race,” Webber said. “Driving these type of cars at night is something very dramatic, very intense, sexy. The car is on the edge the track is on the edge. It’s something which I’ll always remember doing and particularly this year was a tremendous race. You saw the level of competition that was on display this year, it was great for the category.”
Even without winning at Le Mans Webber can look back at his time with Porsche with extreme pride.
“The results that we’ve had… There have been a lot of victories against all odds. That passion that we’ve had to get the most out of the car each weekend has been extremely rewarding. Webber credits co-driver Timo Bernhard for helping him with the transition from F1 in 2014, after joining the German manufacturer with only limited prior sports car racing experience.
Timo’s a very professional as a endurance driver, and very experienced. It’s been very good for me to have Timo in my car. Also Brendon Hartley, who was a bit rough around the edges in the first year, but now he’s one of the best in the world. He’s a phenomenally rounded sports car driver. To be involved and seeing that unfold.
The competition we’ve had has also been great, the Audi and Toyota drivers, it’s been all in the true spirit of what we expect in this championship.”
Webber, who informed his team of his decision earlier on Thursday says his announcement has lifted a huge weight off his shoulders.
“Even personally, last night I went to bed and I said finally it’s done, I’m now committed, I have to do it. The response has been phenomenal,”
Webber has ruled out for the time being doing any one-off races. He will continue to work in an advisory position with Porsche. That also means if he were to drive it his contract only allows him to drive a Porsche. Which after you rule out a LMP1 drive leaves only GT racing.
“I already had a few of interesting emails. At the moment I say it’s incredibly unlikely. It would need to be in a Porsche. I have a close affinity with the brand and that will continue for a while. I can’t imagine what type of racing I could do. I would be very unlikely to do something in GT. Having had the Formula One career I had and driving the 919, the fastest cars in the world, everything after that will be not the same. It’s not arrogant position, I’ve just been extremely fortunate to drive some very fast cars. The threshold of probably a high frustration level, feeling quite bad and slow in cars which I don’t have any experience in. So why would I put myself through that?”
Of course many racecar drivers say these exact same things at the moment of their retirement. Only for a few years to go by and they feel the itch for competition, any competition. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the techno rocketships of F1 and LMP1 or a simple GT car, racing is racing. We shall see what Webber decides to do. For now He’s looking forward to well deserved time off.