x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Waiting game is one that suits Webber over new deal

The Red Bull driver is happy to take time on negotiations while teammate Vettel denies that China defeat was a "wake-up call" and is not taking rivals lightly.

Mark Webber is keeping all his options open at present on whether he will stay with Red Bull Racing for 2012.
Mark Webber is keeping all his options open at present on whether he will stay with Red Bull Racing for 2012.

ISTANBUL // Perhaps it is merely Chinese whispers, but ever since Formula One packed up and departed the Shanghai International Circuit three weeks ago, rumours have been circulating regarding the future of some of the sport's premier protagonists.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari's Brazilian driver, was yesterday asked about a future transfer to Red Bull while Paul di Resta of Force India was questioned about a possible move to Mercedes for the 2012 season.

Both drivers predictably played down the speculation, but for Mark Webber the question was not so much where are you going, but rather when are you going.

Webber, at 34, is the fourth oldest driver in the paddock and his contract is due to expire at the end of the year.

Yet the Australian has already shown this season that he has plenty still to offer his Red Bull Racing team.

In China, Webber produced an outstanding drive that saw him battle from 18th on the grid to finish third and just seven seconds behind race winner Lewis Hamilton. Yet the rumours will not go away.

"Some guys asked me [last week] what is going on for next year and I said three things: 'Stay here, stop or drive somewhere else,' which is probably unlikely," he said.

"It can all happen. I am in good contact with the team obviously and every year we have done the same.

"It is obviously down a lot to how I feel about things, and we will see how we feel later in the year."

Webber admitted he came close to retiring at the end of the 2006 season when he was with Williams and finished 14th in the drivers' standings.

The decision to remain racing has seen him rekindle his career and going into last year's season-ending race in Abu Dhabi he was still capable of flying out of the UAE as world champion.

"I could have stopped two or three years ago, but I kept going," he said. "I came to Red Bull and we've done many good things together.

"There are still a lot of big boxes to be ticked and there is a good chance of doing some very good things together in the future."

Webber signed on for one more year with Red Bull at this stage of the season last year and while he admits this time round is "a bit harder", he said the process of having a one-year rolling contract benefits him.

"I made the right decision," Webber said of his decision in 2006.

"Since then I have always taken it step by step which has been the right way for my mentality towards the job.

"It also suits Red Bull as well, so it has worked out quite well for both of us.

"We haven't had too many discussions yet, but obviously over the next few months things will start to move on.

"Whether it ends this year or I go again next year, it doesn't depend on results; results will be fine. It depends on how I feel."

Webber has endured a turbulent relationship with Sebastian Vettel, his teammate at the Milton Keynes, England-based operation, who won the world championship in Abu Dhabi last November.

At last year's Turkish Grand Prix, a Red Bull one-two finish quickly crumbled when the two drivers collided while fighting for the lead and Hamilton passed them both to claim the top step of the podium.

"Blank" is how Vettel described his memory of the incident, but he accepts the team learnt a valuable lesson from the collision.

The German added that while he was disappointed not to win in China last month, where he finished second behind Hamilton, one benefit of not completing a hat-trick of successive grand prix victories is that he no longer needs to field questions of his own supremacy.

"It was not a wake-up call," he said. "But it has stopped the strange questions of being dominant, which I always said were wrong anyway.

"Nobody is unbeatable. There will always be times, even if you don't like it, when somebody else is kicking your behind."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae