Welcome to the first Podium or Pits of the new year!

Somehow the upcoming 2011 season feels that bit closer now, phew (only 65 days until F1 returns, exciting stuff!)

New Renault test driver... Vladimir Putin?

PODIUM.  Having friends in high places –

Regular readers may remember the scepticism with which POP greeted the news that Vitaly ‘lacklustre’ Petrov secured an audacious 2 year deal with Renault.  “How many wheel-barrows of cash did it take to get that deal done?” is what POP said before Christmas.

Now we know… ok, so not exactly how much, but this week it was revealed that the highly reputable Russian PM Vladimir Putin helped out fellow country-man Petrov to secure his contract.  Utterly nothing fishy in that at all.  Nothing whatsoever…

“The number of automobile sport lovers in Russia increases day by day […] Petrov, who is very famous among Formula 1 fans here, has recently signed a new two-year contract with his team [Renault]. He definitely needs support. Financial support most of all.” – Vladimir Putin.

Bernie Ecclestone is rumoured to be waiting patiently at his London home for his wheel barrow of cash to arrive in return for agreeing to a Russian grand prix from 2014.*

Ecclestone and Putin get cosy

*This report is entirely imagined, but you never know, it might be true – just look at FIFA, Sepp Blatter and the awarding of the 2018 Football World Cup to, you guessed it, Russia!  POP rests its case.

PODIUM.  Mark Webber –

Shake that booty!  My oh my, this week Mark Webber has been captured doing his best Saturday Night Fever impression whilst trying out the Xbox Kinect.  Sadly for Mark it’s more cringey Dad-dancing at a wedding than the next Strictly Come Dancing champion’s routine.  But full marks (to Mark!), for trying!

Many thanks to WTF1 for the tip-off!

PITS.  Heikki Kovalainen –

Poor Heikki is in bed with the flu.  Bless.  It began on 3rd January (or is it just a really really bad New Year’s hangover?), and yesterday Heikki was still ill according to his Twitter updates“Still fighting flu but no worries feeling body getting stronger anyway!”

Rock on!

Get well soon Heikki!  And for all the Heikki fans out there POP has also discovered Heikki’s NYE fancy dress outfit… complete with Adam Ant-like eye-liner!  Fierce.

PODIUM for  Pat Fry/ PITS for Chris Dyer –

With a double-whammy POP entry, that can only mean one thing… that’s right, Pat Fry has replaced Chris Dyer as Ferrari’s head of race track engineering.

Heads were always going to roll after ‘that blunder’ at the end of the 2010 season in Abu Dhabi where Fernando Alonso was arguably “robbed” of his chance at the title, as Ferrari erroneously attempted to shadow Mark Webber’s race strategy (which ended with Alonso finishing in a lowly 7th).  And now, some interesting facts about Pat Fry:

  • he’s worked for McLaren and Benetton in the past
  • he used to be BBC commentator Martin Brundle’s race engineer!
  • he only joined Ferrari in 2010 (now that’s an impressive career trajectory!)
  • nope, that’s it.  Pat isn’t wildly exciting.


And finally, POP leaves you with this photo of a yeti, oops, POP meant to say Fernando Alonso, alongside a furry creature with a cat on his shoulder – Do you like Alonso’s and Mark’s new look?  Are beards the means of ‘growing’ a successful championship,  ‘out-bloking’ fellow rival drivers, or merely a means of hiding from disgruntled Ferrari fans for Alonso and for proving who’s the real man to your whipper-snapper team mate?  YOU DECIDE!  All votes will be counted and Alonso’s facial hair will be given a Podium or Pits in next week’s column!

credit: Getty / AussieGrit Twitter

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