Mark Webber will leave champions Red Bull and Formula One at the end of the season, the Australian racing driver has announced. He will switch to sportscar racing with Porsche's LMP1 team.
Webber (pictured above right) made big news in the racing world on Thursday with his announcement he was stepping away from Formula One. Porsche said he had signed a multi-year contract with the team.
"I'm very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in Formula One," he said on his website. "I can hardly wait to pilot one of the fastest sports cars in the world."
Red Bull has said it would not name a replacement for Webber until the end of this season. Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen, a world champion in 2007, is the favorite to get the job.
Webber, 36, is in his 12th year of F1 and is the oldest driver on the starting grid. He has yet to win a race in the 2013 season and sits fifth in the drivers' championship. His next chance to do so will be at this weekend's British Grand Prix. Webber has won two of the last three races at Silverstone, including last year.
Years with Red Bull
"I am sure Mark thought long and hard before making what has no doubt been a very difficult decision," said Red Bull principal Christian Horner. "His achievements in Formula One are extensive and I am sure he will continue to push hard and build on that record until the end of the season."
Webber first joined F1 in 2002 as part of fellow Australian Paul Stoddart's Minardi team. He joined Red Bull in 2007 and has since won nine Grand Prix with the team, but he has often driven in the shadow of teammate and three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel (pictured above left).
There had been speculation that this season would be Webber's last with Red Bull since the Malaysian Grand Prix in March, when Vettel disregarded team orders and overtook him for victory. Webber, however, insisted the controversy had nothing to do with his choice to leave F1, saying: "I've had a personal plan. I've stuck with it. This is the next chapter."
He said it was time for something new and "highly unlikely" he would return to F1, but did say he had opportunities to remain in the series before joining Porsche.
"I'm very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in Formula One," Webber said. "Porsche will undoubtedly set itself very high goals."
dr/kms (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)