Red Bull Racing has confirmed that Australian driver Mark Webber has extended his contract with the team by another year, which will see him wearing Red Bull livery at least through 2011. There had been moderate speculation earlier this season that Red Bull might draft ex-F1 ace Kimi Raikonnen from his current slot in the WRC to fill Webber’s F1 seat, but this has proven to be nothing but empty gossip.
Interestingly, while Red Bull has been at pains lately to deny that they’ve been favoring Webber’s team mate Sebastian Vettel, it’s undeniable that team management has taken different approaches in handling the two drivers’ respective contracts. Vettel is currently tied to the team through the end of 2012, and according to word in the paddock, Red Bull is trying to secure his services through the end of the 2015 season.
Meanwhile, the team is committing to Mark Webber only on a year-by-year basis. Red Bull honcho Christian Horner has indicated that this arrangement suits both parties, team and river, equally well. Be that as it may, it’s hard to imagine that the team wouldn’t be falling all over themsevles to tie Webber to as longer tenure with the team if they valued his talents quite as much as Vettel’s. Granted, he’s a decade older than Vettel, but when you consider that Mercedes just signed 41 year old Michael Schumacher to a three year deal, it’s obvious that age is a secondary issue.
As reported in Autosport, Webber put a positive gloss on the short term deal, saying, “It was an easy decision to remain with Red Bull Racing. We began talking very early this year and were in a position to sign by the Barcelona Grand Prix. The decision to extend for a further year was a mutual one. It’s widely known that I’m not interested in hanging around in Formula 1 just for the sake of it and at this stage of my career, I’m happy to take one year at a time.”