Movie star to take spot as No. 2 driver for rest of season.
The 2013 Formula One season is only two races in, but Infiniti-Red Bull Racing has apparently decided the time was right to replace their number two driver, Australian badass Mark Webber. But the decision to replace him is less surprising than who they've tapped to replace him: none other than international movie star and Scientology enthusiast Tom Cruise.
Tension between Webber and his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel have been rising lately—witness Vettel's decision to pass Webber at the end of the Malaysian Grand Prix in violation of team orders. "Mark is a wonderful bloke, and an excellent driver," said Infiniti-Red Bull Racing publicist Todd Schfinkter, "but unfortunately, we just don't think he's a good fit for the team right now." When asked to comment on rumors that Webber's release was brought on by Vettel jumping up and down and screaming "I want him gone!" over and over again after the Malaysian race, Schfinkter simply replied, "Sebastian is a passionate young man—on and off the track."
The decision to hire Cruise, however, came about through circuitous circumstances. After seeing the actor try his hand in one of RBR's demo cars back in 2011, the team knew he had the chops to drive in the big leagues. At the same time, Cruise was reportedly looking to take a break from acting—so when the racing team floated him an offer, he jumped at it like it was Oprah's couch. "I'm absolutely thrilled to be joining the Infiniti-Red Bull Racing team for the rest of the season," Cruise said. "Granted, the $10 million contract is a bit less than I'd usually make, but opportunities like this...they're not about the money."
While Vettel has not been reached for comment, sources close to him say the driver has been rewatching his old German-language VHS copy of Top Gun over and over in anticipation of meeting Cruise, and reportedly is going through a phase where he only answers to "Eisverkäufer," which is German for "Iceman." As for Webber, Variety reports he has just been offered the part of Max Rockatansky in the upcoming 2014 film, Mad Max: Fury Road. [via Infiniti-Red Bull Racing]