The man of the momentLaurence Edmondson July 10, 2012
Prior to Mark Webber signing a new Red Bull deal, Laurence Edmondson looked at what Mark Webber's victory at Silverstone meant for his future
Silverstone has been good to Mark Webber over his career but his latest victory may have been his most significant yet. Back in 1996 he won at his first attempt on the circuit in Formula Ford, but with barely enough money to fuel his B-reg Ford Fiesta at the time, he had no way of knowing he would reach the coveted position he's in now.
"It's probably one of my most successful circuits actually," Webber said ahead of last weekend's race. "I always enjoy driving here and it's the first track I came to after I got off the plane at Heathrow all those years ago. I came up and saw all the history involved in the place and there's no better thing to drive around here than a Formula One car."
The big question now is which Formula One car he will be driving around Silverstone in 2013?
Last year there were questions about whether Webber would still be in the sport beyond his current contract, which expires at the end of 2012. Would he still have the motivation? Would he get over the problems relating to the car and the Pirelli tyres? And would Red Bull still want him? All three were emphatically answered at Silverstone this weekend, and after the race on Sunday Webber made it clear that he sees himself on the 2013 grid.
Asked if his victory would have a bearing on where he would drive next year, Webber said: "At the start of the year I didn't have a contract, I'm pushing to get a contract for next year. Going reasonably well, got a few points, a couple of wins and I will work very hard to try and stay in Formula One next year. So, the answer is no."
But was that a "no" because he plans to stay at Red Bull or a "no" because he has a Ferrari contract lined up to replace Felipe Massa? At no point has Webber fuelled the persistent rumours about a shift to Maranello, but neither has he done anything to quell them. But, then again, why should he? After all, it's no secret that he is on a much smaller pay package than his team-mate Sebastian Vettel and the Ferrari speculation could be a useful bargaining chip.
But if Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is worried about Webber heading to Ferrari, it isn't showing. "Inevitably there's an awful lot of speculation surrounding Ferrari, but we're only focused on ourselves and we can't control what other people say or do," he said on Sunday. "I think Mark feels comfortable with the team and over the next few weeks we'll sit down and talk about the future."
Shortly after giving that answer, Horner's iPhone rang with the name Stefano Domenicali emblazoned across the top of the screen. "Ciao Stefano," Horner said calmly to raucous laughter from the journalists sat around him. "What's that?" he joked after Domenicali had hung up. "You don't want him?"
Horner, it appears, is relaxed completely about the situation.
But for Webber this is the most crucial point of his career to date. He is a genuine contender for this year's world championship and may well have his pick between two of the hottest seats on the grid in 2013. But F1 is a fickle business, and with the unpredictable nature of this year's championship, bluffing can quickly be replaced by blushing.
If only life was as simple as it was in 1996.
Laurence Edmondson is an assistant editor on ESPNF1