There has been speculation about Mark Webber moving to Ferrari since at least June last year, when Ferrari was considering what to do about the problem of Felipe Massa. At the time the Brazilian still had a valid contract and Ferrari was keen to honour that commitment and give Felipe another chance. However, at the time I speculated that “Ferrari wants two drivers who can push one another and if Massa is not the answer one has to ask who would be the best option to replace him. What is needed in such a situation is a solid team performer who does not have ups and downs. Webber may be just such a driver. He is old enough and wise enough to know that his F1 career has a limited term and that there is no point in going beyond that. He is still very competitive and like most drivers would love to be a Ferrari driver. Webber says that he will decide what he wants to do in a while”.
In the end the Scuderia stood by Massa, but in October the Webber story popped up again.
“Ferrari want a driver who will deliver more points than Massa has been delivering in the last two seasons,” I concluded. “For me the choice is fairly clear: Mark Webber is a guy who knows how to be a competitive number two driver. He had his chance of glory in 2010 and it did not work out but he still manages to find the motivation to be a good number two. A few years at Ferrari will round off his career nicely. He and Alonso are friends and Red Bull has made it fairly clear that they want a youngster in alongside SebVet”.
I am pleased to say that the Formula 1 magpies, who steal their stories from the work of others, tend to stay away from me because I have given them a few barium meals over the years which means that they do not know what is true and what is not true – and have no means of checking.
They have no such qualms when it comes to the Spanish press and thus when on Sunday night the Spanish F1 journalist Javier Rubio reported that Mark Webber was the leading candidate to replace Felipe Massa at Ferrari, this was picked up by the magpies and turned into a storm of a story. If one read the original story, however, one can see that Rubio wrote that “although his contract with the Italian team is not signed yet, he may have already established a preliminary agreement to join the team in 2013″.
He also quoted a source close to the deal saying: “It’s done”.
Webber was asked about the stories at the test in Mugello and there has followed a stream of stories about Mark “refuting” and “denying” the initial stories. He has done no such thing.
He said: “There’s a whole season ahead of us before we need to think about the future. One day the talk is about Jenson, then it’s Sergio, now it’s me. I haven’t signed anything. My focus is on this team. We have had a good start to the season, we’re only four races down and the road is very, very long before we start talking about the future.”
This means very little. The fact that Webber has not signed anything, does not mean he is not talking to Ferrari, nor that he does not have a conditional agreement. Yes, there has been speculation about others. Yes, his focus is obviously on Red Bull Racing for the rest of the year, but he and Red Bull may never get round to talking to about their future together… if there is not one.
In recent years Ferrari has had a habit of doing its deals well in advance. Kimi Raikkonen had a conditional Ferrari deal in his pocket for 18 months before he joined the team and Alonso had a similar deal for 2011 which was agreed in 2009. Normally the options that are agreed kick in around August time.