PODIUM. Lewis Hamilton –

Frankly, it was hard to miss Lewis Hamilton this week.  He was everywhere!  There he was, grinning from ear-to-ear from an enormous billboard erected over a slightly dodgy-looking kebab shop.  There he was again, sporting a rather good thumbs up from a shop window.  And on TV!  And on a giant video billboard in Waterloo station!  And just when POP thought it had successfully gone 20 minutes without seeing Lewis’ smiling face… there he was on the back of a toilet door.  Enough!

Why all the Lewis-mania then?  Apparently some massive bank is taking over Formula 1, nay, the world.  That bank is Santander.  Not only will they be sponsoring both McLaren and Ferrari this year, but they also now own what were formerly Abbey, Bradford & Bingley, and Alliance & Leicester.  Enough with the free advertising, because it wasn’t all rosy for Lewis this week…

Lewis and Nicole in happier times

PITS. Lewis Hamilton –

In what is a first for POP, the same person is on both the Podium and in the Pits this week!  But rightly so.  Lewis had a bonanza week promoting, er, banking, but scored a spectacular PR own-goal by simultaneously announcing his split from Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger.

POP, being an enthusiastic gossip collector in its spare time, had heard whispers of their split back in September.  According to their joint statement on the split, “The two of them have decided to focus fully on their careers and will remain close friends.”  How lovely.  POP is confident that Hamilton will find plenty of models, underwear models, bikini models, and popstars to keep him amused for the forseeable future.

PITS. Bernie Ecclestone –

This week Bernie has unveiled his latest plans for Formula 1… short cuts!  Last year the 79 year-old F1 supremo attempted to introduce a medal system into Formula 1 in order to “make the sport more interesting”.  This year he wants the drivers to have a limited number of chances per race to use a specially designed short cut to overtake other drivers… in order to “make the sport more interesting”.  Anyone would think at Bernie didn’t even like Formula 1?  His lastest hair-brain scheme would be a lot like the lifelines you get in Who Wants to be a Millionaire?: once the short cut opportunities have been all used up, then they’re gone.  What next?  Phone a Schumacher?  Every driver will have one opportunity per race to phone Michael Schumacher for 30 seconds to get driving tips and tricks from the 7 times world champion.  Press the wrong button, though, and you dial straight through to Ralf and are automatically demoted 5 places.

Bernie Ecclestone perusing the Saga holidays 2010 brochure

One of these days Bernie will come out with something SO outrageous that everyone will finally realise that he is just a crazy old, but incredibly wealthy, pensioner.  Did POP mention his girlfriend is 30 years-old?  Lunacy!

PITS. Red Bull –

The Red Bull team have confirmed this week that they will not make the first pre-season test of the year for the second year running.  Is it confidence?  Or some hurried last-minute revision of the car?  POP is inclined to say confidence, given that the same strategy worked so well last year.  They also have a stable line-up in the form of Vettel and Webber, whereas every other team will have new faces in their ranks.  But still, confidence can also be a bad thing in POP’s books.  Just look at Max Mosley.