Lewis Hamilton won the final race of the year here in Abu Dhabi and celebrated by stripping off on the podium to be showered in champagne by Max and Seb. The Yas Marina race is a popular one with plenty of spectators in the stands and in the paddock with most of the paddock VIPs spilling onto the grid prior to the start of yesterday’s race. Lewis got away from pole position and was never in any danger. A big prang on the first lap brought out the safety car but it was at the opposite end of the track to me so I had to be content with watching the rollover on a screen.But let’s talk celebrities and the big name in attendance on Sunday was US actor, avid blogger and Lewis Hamilton fan, Will Smith. I had to struggle to get the above shot as I was 3 photographers back in a crush, holding my camera high above my head and shooting using Live View but later on the grid I was 60cm from the popular actor as he lapped up the pre-race buzz. Here’s singer Sam Smith taking a selfie for a punter who was taking way too long. On Saturday, Slash from Guns N Roses was a guest of Mercedes. They played last night but lead singer Axl Rose was not too well and spent much of the concert off stage being sick resulting in long guitar solos from Slash.I took plenty of car pics over the 3 days of on-track action. But I like the people pics more and with this race being the last of the year, many of the drivers brought their wives and girlfriends. Here is Valtteri Bottas with his wife Emilia.Sergey Sirotkin with his girlfriend. Below is Nico Hulkenberg with Egle Ruskyte (aka the Crochet Girl).Below sees Charles Leclerc with Giada Gianni.Cate Masetti Zannini accompanies Toro Rosso driver, the amiable Pierre Gasly. I found the smiling Cate at the back of the Toro Rosso garage during FP3 on Saturday and she was beaming. And here’s Esteban Ocon with the classy, smiley and snappily dressed Italian Elena Berri. She spent much of time at the track studying while her beau went about his car racing business. On Saturday after qualifying I shot Sky Italia broadcaster Davide Valsecchi and Alex Jacques commentate the F2 race, and boy are these guys over-the-top hyper! And exceptional at what they do. There was a huge crash at the start of the race when a back marker ran into the back of a stalled front runner on the grid. I was watching out the window and reacted the moment I saw it. But these guys reacted half a second later as they watch the screen. It struck me then that if they had watched through the glass and reacted when I did, the viewer at home would have heard about it prior to it happening on screen, which would be off putting.It was Daniel Ricciardo’s 100th Red Bull race and his last with the team before he goes to Renault next year so I followed Dan’s parents out to the car park on Saturday where they caught up with their son, not having seen him for some time. I was the only photographer there which is always nice and captured the joy of a father and son hug. Prior to the race I was invited to a photo shoot for just a few photographers and cameramen in front of the Red Bull garage where the Red Bull head honchos farewelled him.Lewis and Fernando were engrossed in their mobile phones as this pic attests. English football fans might recognise ex Man City great, Paul Dickov (below left). He enjoyed a hot lap with Robert Kubica as a guest of sponsor Acronis.Here’s Lewis Hamilton not looking down; a rarity.I caught Sauber boss Frederic Vasseur taking a look over his shoulder on the grid.Daniel Ricciardo was wearing some snappy socks on race day.But some hours later was looking hot and sweaty emerging from the FIA garage having driven his Red Bull to 4th position.And finally, one of my last (and favourite) pics from Abu Dhabi, this moody shot of Charles Leclerc walking back to the Sauber suite after completing his media commitments. I was lucky to have my eldest son Tyler shooting and editing with me this race. He’s not only a good photographer (the race start shots are his), he is enthusiastic and hard working. I thank Felix Siggemann and Mark Thompson for taking an interest in Tyler, he has great respect for both of you.
So that ends my 2nd year shooting this amazing sport. I have met some tremendous people on this journey, both in the media centre and amongst the teams, people who have supported, inspired, encouraged and amused me. People like Victoria Lloyd, Mia Djacic, exuberant Olivier Jollin, hard working Mark Sutton, sometimes grumpy Clive Mason, the beautiful Elena Berri, the beautiful Camila Villeneuve, the charming Daniel Ricciardo and his beautiful parents, Britsh photographer Andy Hone, Britta Roeske, Antti Kontsas, Steven Tee, Angela Cullen, Julia McCredie, Jodie Porter, smiley Pierre Gasly and a host of others.
And thank you for getting through to the end of this blog. More in 2019.