This week Podium or Pits is dedicated to the flurry of excitement over … paint!  Is it shinier than last yearAre clashing colours a good idea?  Does it offend the eyes?  Will it scare small children?  This is what POP likes to think of as ‘Peacock Season’: that period in the Formula 1 calendar when the teams get their plumage out and parade it around for everyone to see.  Lovely!

PITS.  The ‘MP4-25’ aka the “new” McLaren

It may not be as headache-inducing as the new Renault (read on for more details, but beware, POP recommends you wear sunglasses before scrolling down any further), and it certainly isn’t a bad looking car when judged by objective standards.  But it’s not really anything revolutionary is it?  From what POP can tell, all they’ve done is put a big ridge on last year’s car and called it ‘new’.  Lazy.  That’s what it is.  See if you can spot the difference (above).

PODIUM.  The ‘VR-01‘ aka Virgin Racing’s 2010 wheels

If there is one person in the world who knows how to brand something, then its Richard ‘Brandy’ Branson.  Hell, POP bets that the guy could even take some prune & tomato juice, brand it up a little, and it’d be a huge global seller!  So with that pedigree in mind, the livery designers at Virgin Racing got their season off to a good start with a stunner of a car.  The bold red and black is agressive, but also beautiful.  Some may object to the swirls at the back of the car, but POP likes them.  They’re like some badass tattoos!  It’s a shame really then that the VR-01 will probably spend most of the 2010 season languishing at the back of the grid without much TV coverage.  Damn shame.

PITS.  The ‘R30‘ aka Renault’s 2010 monstrosity

Some people have called it “brilliantly retro”.  But everyone knows that ‘retro’ is only one hop skip and a jump away from ‘ugly’.  Take 80s fashion: leg-warmers, neon pink, crimped hair, outrageous make-up.  Sure, they’re cool in a ‘retro I live in Shoreditch and I’m so damn cool, in fact, too cool to be talking to the likes of you‘ sort of way, but in reality leg warmers are plain bad taste.  The R30 looks like a really bad hangover feels, or a big angry bumblebee.  No wonder no-one wants to sponsor the team yet.  The only concession POP will offer is that it probably doesn’t look as daft as the ‘Earth Dreams Car’ did for Honda back in 2007.

PODIUM.  The ‘F10‘, aka the 2010 Prancing Horse, aka the new Ferrari

It’s no stunner like the Virgin Racing car, but it certainly looks like it means business.  Is it shinier?  Or is it simply enamoured with the promise of a better season than 2009?  After being driven by the less-than-enthusiastic Kimi Raikkonen last year, and carrying Felipe Massa to near-death, 2009 wasn’t exactly a great year for the Ferrari prancing horse.  At the grand unveiling of the F10 the rear-end was mysteriously covered over… it’s a car, not a person!  It has no sense of, or need for, modesty or public decency!  POP is hoping that this does not herald Diffuser Debacle Round II.

PODIUM.  The ‘MGP W01’ aka the Mercedes

The new Mercedes is sleek, simple, steel… basically, it’s the embodiment of the Mercedes ethos.  There’s no fancy twirls or whirls, crazy colours, naff gimmicks.  The Mercedes is all about functionality, efficiency, and engineering excellence.  They’ve got Michael Schumacher.  There really is no further need to scare other teams off with bullish livery.  Having the 7 times world champion in your mirrors is enough to send the multitude of 2010 rookies into a rapid tail-spin.

PODIUM.  The Ferrari Press team

This week special mention goes to the Ferrari PR team.  POP is an unashamed fan!  Following on from their triumph at the POP 2009 awards, Ferrari have showed no signs of abating their talent for brilliantly catchy and often bizarre news snippets.  Yesterday they released a story entitled, “Ferrari makes me turn into a child again”.  But the hilarity does not stop there.  Oh no.  They are interviewing new recruit Fernando Alonso, and instead of asking him ‘normal’ corporate-sponsored questions, they decide to ask him about whether he believes in god, or magic, what the most “beautiful” day of his life has been, who he plays poker with, “Which nickname do you prefer: Magic Alonso or El Nano?” and so on.  Click here to read the full interview in all its glory.