CALABASAS, Calif. — After 21 remarkable years, former Formula One star and constant international motorsport fixture Mark Webber will hang up his helmet and call it a career following the conclusion of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship.
Webber won’t leave the industry, however, but will become a “special representative” within the Porsche team.
In order to fully understand the significance of his retirement, you must first understand what he has done and meant.
The Australian who debuted with Minardi F1 in 2002 at his home country’s race, the Australian Grand Prix, immediately turned heads after finishing an incredible fifth in his debuut.
The moment was one that gave the Australian people a chance to be proud of a driver from their country, and to this date, Webber is the highest finishing Aussie in the Australian Grand Prix.
But many people forget that his career began even before that.
A path that started in Formula Ford and Formula Holden led Webber to meet Paul Stoddart, who was an owner in Formula 3000 but eventually bought the Minardi F1 team that Webber began his Formula One career at.
Despite that, he was most well known before F1 after the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans.
A young Webber was driving with the AMG Mercedes team that day, starting 10th but not being talked about because of the race itself. As Webber was in the car for qualifying, he took the term “flying lap” to a whole new level. As he was entering Indianapolis, the car caught air and lifted off the ground, winding up in the trees outside of the track.
Race officials allowed the team to rebuild the chassis, but the car never started the event. Thus was Mark Webber’s welcome to the big world of motorsports.
His F1 career was that of a free spirit, as he would move from team to team with names that included Minardi, Jordan, Williams and finally Red Bull.
He found his way to Red Bull and was teammates with David Coulthard in the teams infancy. Then, he became teammates with Sebastian Vettel and the two had an epic rivalry not seen in a team since the days of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna at McLaren.
Before Red Bull, Webber never won a single grand prix, but in the 2009 season he went on a tear and was making up for lost time. He won twice, with his maiden victory coming at the Nürburgring before he added a second in Brazil.
After finally knocking the monkey off of his back, Webber put the garage on notice in 2010 that he was going to be a championship contender. He won four times on the season in Spain, Silverstone and Germany, but no win was more special than his victory in the Monaco Grand Prix, the first of his two victories in the crown jewel event.
His efforts however, would be all for naught, as late in the season, he would lose critical points to his young German teammate after a wreck in Turkey involving the two and a bicycle injury in the middle part of the season that hampered his ability to be 100% healthy.
Ultimately, Webber lost the title that was in his grasp and very much in his sights.