McNish: Time right for Webber to move
2 July 2013 – Three-time Le Mans winner Allan McNish has backed Red Bull driver Mark Webber's decision to leave Formula 1 in favour of Porsche and its new LMP1 programme at the end of the season, arguing that "the time is right" for him to move on.
McNish, who claimed overall Le Mans honours alongside Audi team-mates Tom Kristensen and Loïc Duval last month, reckons the Australian, 36, would not have struggled to retain a seat in Formula 1 if he had wished to stay beyond 2013, with his ultimate World Endurance Championship (WEC) switch coming as no surprise.
"I know Mark very well and he would talk a lot about racing; when it became clear that he wasn’t having a hell of a lot of fun any longer, around about Malaysia time, then it didn’t surprise me that he would look for other opportunities," McNish told GPUpdate.net. "If you ask me, the time is right for him to make the move. He knows that there’s a big motorsport career and life outside of Formula 1, he’s very aware of that.
"If you look at it from his point of view, I’m very sure he could have looked at another team in Formula 1, but it would be a step back from where he is now. On the other side of it, he’s got quite a tantalising prospect, which we all have, of Audi, Porsche and Toyota fighting it out for World Championships and for Le Mans victories."
McNish also believes Webber will enjoy a smooth transition to LMP1 machinery, the ex-Formula 1 driver playing down the current differences between both categories.
"What I can say is without doubt he will enjoy driving the cars," added McNish, who made his Formula 1 debut with Webber in 2002. "They are very powerful, and with the downforce and tyre grip it will be quite easy to switch from a Formula 1 car. In reality, they are very, very similar – the biggest difference is purely the weight. You can see from the drivers that are making the switch across, how effortlessly they drive the car.
"I think the biggest thing for me was the smile on his face. I’m sure he will turn up to the first round of the World Championship next year with a smile on his face."
Prior to his Formula 1 career, Webber made two appearances at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Mercedes-Benz. His first attempt, in 1998, ended after just 19 laps when team-mate Bernd Schneider retired with an engine issue, while his second effort was curtailed before the start of the race following a pair of high speed crashes in practice.