Today the cars were on track for the first time in the Chinese Grand Prix and you’d think that in a city of 24 million people there’d be more than 12 spectators in one of the two hairpin grandstands (below). But that was all that could be mustered and at the start of the session, there were only 3 people in that stand, which would seat at least 8,000. Given Ferrari lost one of their pit crew last weekend when Kimi Raikkonen ran over his leg in a bungled pit stop, the team was out doing plenty of practice this morning in pit lane. There were few people around to witness it which meant photographing it was a lot easier than when there are thousands on a pit walk. In the paddock, Nico Hulkenberg was playing “silly buggers” with me, hiding his face with his cap. He tired of that ruse quickly though. Good to see he’s got a sense of humour.And below is the leader after two rounds, Ferrari’s Mr Sebastian Vettel who was looking cool on a cold, blustery Shanghai day. Jumping back to the first session, I spent some time on the outside of the last corner where a number of drivers including Stoffel Vandoorne and Daniel Ricciardo were tempting fate putting their right hand wheels onto the astro turf.Charles Leclerc put all four onto the astroturf kicking up some dust (below) while Max Verstappen went way off course and through the gravel trap (below times two). In the afternoon session I went to turn one where many of the cars were kicking up huge showers of sparks as their cars bottomed out. I was in fine company alongside a number of the very best photographers on the tour and this was our view.Standing at this spot the cars come past at around 300km/hr and shave off half of that speed in 70m to negotiate the right hander in spectacular fashion with the Red Bulls the brightest and best sparkers of the pack of 20. To capture the sparks this length, one must leave the shutter open for 1/25th of a second (that’s a long time in photography-speak) while following the car around the corner over 100m away.Around the corner a bit further we can stand up against the armco and get within 20m of the cars as they swing around the left hander and head past the grandstand. Just after the second session finished, the rain came down big time. After I’d edited for an hour I went for a wander through the pits and paddock in the hope of finding a pic. On my way back to the media centre I came across most of the drivers as they emerged from their drivers’ meeting. Renault’s Carlos Sainz wouldn’t be impressed with this shot as he evaded the rain. Lance Stroll felt water on his head as Force India driver Estaban Ocon ribbed him.Kevin Magnussen was looking serious (below) and Lewis Hamilton took cover with a team jacket protecting this yellow puma tracky as he headed across the paddock.Qualifying is set down for tomorrow at 2pm local time and while Lewis is favourite, any of the top 6 could end up on pole its that close.
Our helmet of the day today is that of Sergio Perez from 4 different angles. We’ll reconvene tomorrow, ok?