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And the winner is…… Sebastian Vettel.  The German won a nice trophy by virtue of being the first driver to cross the line having completed 58 laps of Albert Park and was congratulated by 2nd placed Lewis Hamilton. Not all tracks have a “Melbourne Walk” where fans have the opportunity to see their idols, so shooting the drivers arriving at the track here in Melbourne is a bonus.  Nico Rosberg gave my blog the “thumbs up”.Max Verstappen posed with the guide dogs.But Lewis Hamilton sent the media pack into a frenzy arriving on a scooter.  Prior to this shot being taken he was besieged by photographers after he stopped to sign autographs.  I decided to move away from the scrum realising that he’d eventually scoot towards the paddock  where I’d hopefully get a clean shot; and I did.This being the first event of the year meant the drivers all had to present for the drivers’ group shot which is done on the main straight and there were many photographers vying for a good spot to shoot the assembled racers (me 2nd row, 2nd from the right). After that, the drivers headed off around Albert Park in their own vintage car so the 94,500 fans could wave to them and they could wave back to each and all of those folks. Lunch was a muesli bar in the media centre, which in Melbourne is a large tent situated just outside the paddock. It has a raised wooden floor and when you’re seated at your fold out party table on a fold out chair, the floor moves up and down like a trampoline.  It is the polar opposite to the media centre at Shanghai which is quite glorious.

On racedays, the cars are allowed onto the track 30 minutes before the race, so yesterday I identified a photo hole that allowed me to shoot them coming out of pitlane with some nice activity behind them.  I walked the 200 meters to that hole and shot them practicing their starts coming towards me.Then I walked back and shot them from behind, seated on the ground sometimes less than a couple of metres away when they took off; close enough to feel the heat from the exhaust.Being accredited for the full 2018 season, as opposed to “race-by-race” as was my case last year,  means I have access to the grid at every race.  I only did one grid last year, at Baku and it was a buzz.

Melbourne’s grid was super busy with cars being wheeled through the throng of team personnel and media.We get 10 minutes of furious snapping before we are required to vacate the track.  This monster aircraft was quite a sight as it flew low over the main straight.  I found Daniel Ricciardo’s helmut on the grass and had to lie down to get this ground level shot.Then it was a jog to the 2nd corner to shoot the compacted field on the first lap. The rest of the race was spent around corners 1, 2, 3 and 4.I was walking to turn 3 when I noticed all the crowd pointing behind me and upon turning around found Romain Grosjean pulling his Haas car to the side of the track.  He got out and spent 10 seconds with his head in his hands.  I later saw a beautiful pic of him consoling the crew member who was involved in the wheel nut not locking on correctly.  He was in points contention at the time of pulling out.With 30 minutes of the race still to go I started my hike back to the pits and then queued for 20 minutes to ensure I got a spot on the fence for the top 3 returning to parc ferme.  Then it was a short walk to the press conference room to listen to the top 3 describe their day.  Second placed Lewis Hamilton wasn’t as interested in it as he is when he wins, spending some time cleaning his sunnies while Seb fielded questions. Kimi Raikkonen just sat their staring and wasn’t asked a single question during the 20 minutes I was there.That’s all for now, have a flight to catch to Perth and will be in Bahrain in 10 days for race 2.  Thanks for sharing the blog too!