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Porsche denies Webber deal
By Laine Clark
16:29 AEST Mon Apr 15 2013

The rumour mill went into overdrive after the wheels literally came off Mark Webber's Chinese Grand Prix campaign.

Porsche denied reports they had signed the Formula One driver on a five-year enduro sports car deal from 2014 after the Australian's wretched weekend in Shanghai was ultimately ended by a loose rear tyre.

And Red Bull team principal Christian Horner furiously denied there was an ulterior motive behind Webber's horror run, describing rumours of a conspiracy against the Australian as "complete rubbish".

Rumours linking Webber with a move to Porsche first emerged last year but regained momentum three weeks ago after Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders and denied the Australian victory at Malaysia.

Webber, 36, left Sepang contemplating his Formula One future and he appeared to have made up his mind after Radio Le Mans claimed on Monday (AEST) the Australian had officially signed the Porsche deal.

A career change must have looked tempting after his shocking Shanghai run.

Webber was demoted to the back of the race grid after his team failed to adequately fill his Red Bull with fuel due to a bowser fault and he stopped on the qualifying track.

After starting Sunday's race from pit lane, Webber had eighth place in sight by lap 15 but collided with Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne, earning a three-place grid penalty for next Sunday's Bahrain race.

Webber re-emerged from the pits but lasted one more lap before the lost wheel ended his race - and earned Red Bull a 5,000 euro ($A6,290) fine for incorrectly fitting the tyre.

Horner said the team was investigating the wheel failure and why Webber was fuelled 3kg light in qualifying - but angrily refuted conspiracy theories.

"Anybody who thinks there is a conspiracy here against either driver does not know what they are looking at," Horner said.

"Mark knows exactly what happened ... there is no conspiracy."

Webber was diplomatic.

"It was a disappointing thing to happen but I'm not getting too carried away by what happened," Webber said of the fuel gaffe.

"We need to understand what caused the problem and ensure it doesn't happen again."

On the wheel failure, Webber added: "The boys said the wheel was secure when I left the pits.

"Let's hope that's my bad luck for the year done in one weekend."

Moments after Webber's Shanghai challenge ended, Twitter lit up over his reported Porsche deal.

The official Le Mans 24 Hour account added to the speculation with a tweet which included Webber's "@AussieGrit" handle.

"Mark Webber at the 24 hours 2014 with Porsche ...May be ... #LM24 @AussiGrit (sic) #mission2014", they tweeted.

However, Porsche's Wolfgang Hatz said they had not signed Webber as they prepared to hit the test track later this year ahead of their World Endurance Championship assault.

"There is a test plan and for sure Mark Webber is not part of them," he told AutoAction.

"We can have perhaps some Formula One drivers in the future but it is not necessary."

Webber was last involved in sports cars in 1999.


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