Retired Australian formula one driver Mark Webber has implored officials to ensure the Australian Grand Prix retains its place on the circuit after 2015.
But he was adamant he is ”more than happy not to be on the grid” at Albert Park next month as he embraces a new challenge with Porsche in the World Endurance Championship.
The contract to host the season-opening Melbourne Grand Prix expires after next year’s event, and Webber said it was crucial Australia retained a place on motor sport’s biggest stage.
“[Australia] is in the top three – and you’ve got some tough ones to compete against with Monaco and some of the prestigious ones that have been on the calendar for 50 years,” Webber told the ‘Keeping Track’ podcast.
“Every year when you look at the calendar and you know you’ve got the [Australian Open] tennis and the grand prix, I think that’s a very powerful message and tool for our country internationally.
”We’re a small country by population … and we have to embrace these big sporting events where we can, and the extension of the contract is important for those reasons.
“We should not underestimate having that first race of the season; that vision goes around the world.”
The Queanbeyan driver admitted it will feel strange not racing after 12 years in F1, highlighted by nine wins.
”It will be bizarre not racing but more than happy to not to be on the grid, to be honest,” Webber said.
”It’s a change of chapter for me and I’ll let the other guys have a crack now.”
Webber backed his replacement at Red Bull, 24-year-old Daniel Ricciardo, to win races in his first year with the premier team.
”I believe he’ll win grands prix this year, which will be a big confidence boost for him,” he said.
”Patience will be required to a degree, it’s a new scenario for him but once he finds his feet the sky’s the limit for him.
”He thoroughly deserves a seat, he’s earned his stripes and he’s in a top team where he can show everybody, including himself, what he can do.”
Porsche will return to the World Endurance Championship this year after a long absence, and Webber admitted it may need time to find its feet.
”It may take some time to get our weapons sharp to take the challenge to the front,” he said.