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The Australian started strong last season with victories at Monaco and Silverstone but then tailed off and only had two podiums the rest of the way. At 36 and his age increasingly becoming an issue, there was talk that Webber needed a strong start in 2013 to retain his seat and give him any hope of winning a first title.

McLaren’s Jenson Button and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, a close friend and rival, welcomed Webber’s move to Porsche and praised his long career in F1.

“It’s a good time for him, a good opportunity,” Alonso said. “He’s moving to a very prestigious car brand and probably the most famous race in the world together with Formula One. I think he will have a lot of fun behind the wheel as he is doing now with a little less problems (outside the track) that we have in Formula One.”

Vettel, who has clashed several times with his teammate over the years, had nothing but good things to say about Webber. He acknowledged they are not “best friends and probably never will be” but that there could have been “worse couples.”

“I have enormous respect for him on the track but I think, off track, a lot of it has been hyped more than it should have because there hasn’t really been that much going on,” Vettel said. “If you look at other team pairings, I think there’s worse couples than us in terms of mutual respect.”

Porsche hailed Webber as “one of the best and most successful Formula One pilots of our time.”

“I learned to appreciate Mark’s qualities when we were both involved in Formula One,” said Fritz Enzinger, head of LMP1. “He is one of the best pilots I could imagine for our team. I’m absolutely delighted that we have such an experienced and fast regular driver onboard from 2014.”

He has raced twice before at Le Mans, including in 1999 when he had a horrific crash in which he went airborne, flipped and ended in a grove of trees.

“I’m very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in Formula One,” Webber said in a statement. “Porsche will undoubtedly set itself very high goals. I can hardly wait to pilot one of the fastest sports cars in the world.”