Two years ago on EnterF1.com we looked at rumours linking Mark Webber to Ferrari and suggested he would be a suitable replacement for Felipe Massa. However, the key conclusion in 2010 was "Webber would be fairly similar to Massa in that he would push Fernando Alonso hard without beating him so there seems little advantage in signing someone new to the team to effectively fill the same role."
Two years on, and it has become clear that Felipe is no longer pushing Alonso as hard as Ferrari would expect. The pressure is now building on Massa towards a point of no return and his position in the team will soon be untenable.
With Ferrari looking at alternatives to Felipe, Mark Webber is again featuring as a rumoured candidate. Spanish newspaper, El Confidential, said two weeks ago their sources indicated Ferrari had reached a preliminary agreement with Webber for the 2013 season (although not a finalised contract as reported elsewhere). This story was quickly translated and distributed throughout the internet.
At first glance, Mark Webber might not appear to be an instant natural fit at Maranello.
It seems odd that Mark would comfortable moving to a team where he would almost certainly be cast as a definite number two driver. This becomes even more unlikely when you consider he would have to leave the most successful Formula One team of the moment to do so. It could also be considered odd that Ferrari would not use the opportunity to develop a young driver alongside Fernando Alonso, especially since they have Sergio Perez under contract to presumably serve that exact purpose someday.
However, there are a number of reasons why a deal would be favourable for both Webber and Ferrari, and why it isn't so unlikely.
Signing Webber would make sense from Ferrari’s perspective.
History shows best way to win a World championship is with a designated number two driver. Ferrari would ultimately like a partner for Alonso who does not steal any points off the Spaniard, but is still quick enough to steal them off everybody else. They would also want someone who can fill that role without losing motivation, and someone who can work well alongside Fernando. Mark Webber ticks all of those boxes.
Mark is a very quick driver, and on his day is capable of mixing it with the likes of Sebastian Vettel. He is the perfect number two for Red Bull because he pushes Vettel very hard without regularly beating him. It’s also clear that being outpaced by Vettel, as has been the case for most of the last three years, does not impact Mark’s motivation. He certainly doesn’t need the same coaching as Felipe Massa. Webber has also been good friends with Fernando since their days together as Renault test drivers so he is not going to introduce any tension into the team.
A move to Ferrari would also make sense for Webber.
Even though Mark would presumably be outperformed by Alonso in the same way that he has been outperformed by Vettel, it can't good for him to continuously stay in the one team under someone else’s shadow. As Sebastian Vettel's career develops, the Red Bull team is becoming increasingly built around him. In 2010 it was clear that Vettel represented the team’s future and it made sense for Red Bull to focus on the young hero, but now Vettel is a double world champion and that focus is far more intense - and rightly justified. With that being the case, it seems less and less likely that Mark will get the same chance to win the world title that he did in 2010.
Mark might kiss his World Championship ambitions goodbye if he joins Ferrari, but he might as well be doing the same if he stays at Red Bull.
For Webber, it isn’t simply a case of choosing to play the support role to either Alonso or Vettel. Winning races for a different team, and matching himself alongside Fernando, would be a new challenge for Mark and one that he would probably consider refreshing. It would do more to revitalise his career than a few more years in Vettel’s shadow.
Ferrari would also be a prestigious and successful way to end a Grand Prix career. Webber is keen on Formula One history, thanks to his anorak father, and he understands the passion and value of the Ferrari name. Mark once said himself that “driving those red cars has always held that romantic attraction. Ferrari radiates something special” and, even if you don’t cheer for the modern team, he isn’t wrong. Ferrari is without doubt the biggest brand in world motoring, so a move to the Scuderia would cement Webber an esteemed place in the Grand Prix history books.
When asked earlier in the year which races he would most like to win, Mark responded with “Monza is on my list” so you can imagine how much he’d like to win there dressed in red.
Despite the reasoning, the chances of Mark Webber moving to Ferrari are not certain.
Webber has a close relationship with the Red Bull organisation, especially with team boss Christian Horner with whom he owns a GP3 squad. He reportedly turned down an offer from Ferrari in 2010, which suggests he was happy at Red Bull at the time despite the obvious tensions in the team, and that he isn’t blinded by the lure of Maranello.
Importantly, it’s worth noting that Red Bull have won the last two championships and are the most competitive team in Formula One right now. Leaving that winning environment would not be easy.
Ferrari also has other options available. Sergio Perez is often listed as a potential candidate since he already has a Ferrari contract in his pocket and is proving to be a quick star of the future. The team may choose to use this opportunity develop him alongside Fernando Alonso. Promoting Perez into the Scuderia would also justify and add immense value to the relatively new Ferrari Driver Academy.
A deal between Mark Webber and Ferrari hinges on a few key factors.
Ferrari will sign Mark if they want an experienced racer in their team who can push Alonso without beating him, particularly on a short term deal to keep their options open in the near future. Mark will join Ferrari if he is prepared to give up an increasingly slim chance to win the World Championship for the opportunity to win races with the sport’s biggest team.
The chances of Mark Webber joining Ferrari may be no more than 50/50, but crucially, he is more likely to be in the team than Felipe Massa.
This page was written by Martin Porter and posted by James Wilson