x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A win-win situation for Mark Webber

Mark Webber's confirmation that he held discussions with Ferrari will have only increased Red Bull's urgency, and – it is safe to assume – the financial package they were willing to offer.

Mark Webber, right, held talks with Ferrari's Stefano Domenicali, left. Mark Thompson / Getty Images
Mark Webber, right, held talks with Ferrari's Stefano Domenicali, left. Mark Thompson / Getty Images

The announcement by Red Bull Racing that contract negotiations with Mark Webber have successfully concluded came as a surprise in terms of its timing, but not so much in terms of the final outcome.

If the 35 year old was going to leave it would have been on his terms and Red Bull – having watched him triumph on Sunday – knew they must not let that happen.

Christian Horner, the team principal, had said after the British Grand Prix that contract negotiations planned for the next few weeks would not be brought forward because of Webber's win at Silverstone.

Yet within 48 hours, a statement was released by the Milton Keynes marque confirming an enviable 2013 driver line-up.

Webber's success no doubt bettered his negotiating position and with Red Bull knowing they had precious few options, and certainly none better than a driver who has won nine grands prix, came within a victory of the 2010 world championship and sits second in the drivers' standings this season, they will have been keen to tie him down quickly.

The Australian's confirmation today that he held discussions with Ferrari will have only increased Red Bull's urgency, and – it is safe to assume – the financial package they were willing to offer.

After all, who would they have replaced him with had Webber walked? With the exception of Lewis Hamilton, who is looking increasingly likely to remain with McLaren-Mercedes, their only realistic options would have derived from their junior team, Toro Rosso.

Red Bull's feeder marque is supposed to provide experience to young drivers who will eventually be ready to step into the car at the constructors' champions.

Yet since the team based out of Faenza, Italy, formed in 2006, of the eight drivers they have provided a race seat, only one has progressed as planned.

World champion Sebastian Vettel is a prime example of how the system can work, but he joined the team in 2007 before Red Bull were expected to be winning drivers' and constructors' championships.

Now, whoever joins, must hit the track running and as we saw at the end of last season when Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi were both cast aside by Toro Rosso in order to offer opportunities to new talent, the level of expectancy has risen greatly.

Neither Daniel Ricciardo nor Jean-Eric Vergne have shown anywhere near enough potential to warrant them stepping into Webber's seat next season.

That leaves Red Bull treading water for now until one of the two rookies either finds their racing feet or Horner concedes the 35 year old's replacement must come from outside the Red Bull family. If the latter option is the way forward then questions must surely be asked of the viability of Toro Rosso as a feeder team in the first place.

For now, though, Red Bull will simply be pleased to have comfortably concluded the continuation of a contract with one of the sport's most talented – if underrated – drivers, and Webber will, until this time next season, be pleased to be able to focus solely on racing and not rumours.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE