London: Mark Webber ended speculation about a move to Ferrari on Tuesday by signing an extension to his Red Bull contract that keeps him alongside Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel for a fifth season.
Red Bull’s announcement means the 35-year-old, who is currently second in the championship standings behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, can look forward to a seventh year with the Milton Keynes-based team.
“There were discussions with Ferrari, but my decision was to stay here,” he said in a Q+A issued by Red Bull, in which he also did not rule out staying in Formula One beyond 2013.
The Australian had been touted as a replacement for Felipe Massa at the Italian glamour team, with the Brazilian out of contract at the end of the season and still chasing his first podium finish since 2010.
Webber, winner of Sunday’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, said the decision to stay put had been an easy one in the end because the team felt like family.
The Australian has raced for British-based Formula One teams since 2003 and lives within easy reach of Silverstone, enjoying walking his dogs in the countryside as well as also owning a village pub.
He has also taken all of his nine race wins, 10 poles and all but one of his 31 podium placings with Red Bull.
“It’s an amazing bunch of guys and girls at Red Bull Racing and I really, really like working with them. That has a huge effect on me and how I perform in the car and it helped me in my decision,” he said.
“We have gone through plenty together here. We went from the days when Red Bull had not long owned the team to what it is now,” added the former Minardi, Jaguar and Williams driver.
“It is just one nice big family now in many ways and we have grown so much. We’ve come a long way and I think it’s clear that I fit well here and that’s what I really like about it.”
Webber said he knew everyone’s names at Red Bull — “I virtually know everyone’s shoe sizes” — and all the departments in the factory.
His relationship with Vettel, 25, was also a factor even if their pairing has not always been an easy one. The German already has a contract for next year.
“I think no-one would really have envisaged how long we have worked together, so that’s probably been a bit of a surprise,” said Webber.
“There are not many team-mates staying together for that long in Formula One, but it’s proved to be a successful partnership with both of us working very hard with the key technical members of the team. It’s been a potent operation.”
Webber had a disappointing season last year, when Vettel romped to his second title, but he is back on form and currently 16 points clear of the German with nine of the 20 races under his belt.
With Alonso, the Australian is one of only two drivers to have won two races this year and he said he was high on confidence and firing on all cylinders.
He said having the contract done and dusted was a big plus as he focused on the championship battle.
“I’ve been hearing different rumours and reasons for a long time now. At the end of the day I know everything that has been going on. You want to make sure your focus is clearly on driving the car and the guys that you’re working with.” he said.
“It’s important the team knows you’re 100 per cent with them, which, of course, I am.”
As far as his future beyond 2013 was concerned, Webber would only say that he had been asked the same question for the past four years and would give the same answer.
“It’s a results-based sport at the front of the grid so the future lies in my own hands. It’s down to me to deliver the on-track results,” he said.