There is no race quite like the Japanese Grand Prix and for many reasons. The people for one; polite, passionate and welcoming. The track is amazing both from a racing and photographic viewpoint and the facilities are excellent. Of course Lewis Hamilton shone again taking pole position and chalking up another win.But harking back over the weekend I can report that on Friday and Saturday, grey skies were prevalent and on Saturday morning we had bit of rain. On the Friday, I did the first session in pit lane focusing on drivers and pit lane action. The ferris wheel at the track is an integral part of so many shots. Its size ensures it is visible from a number of spots around the track and over the weekend I used it in the background of many of my images. Fan-wise there were many keen to get close to their idols and the woman below, with her nails dedicated to Lewis, was happy to show me her phone cover which was signed by the Mercedes driver in 2016. She managed to grab Lewis’ attention as he entered the paddock on Friday and was nearly in tears after he stopped to give her a quick hug. The woman below wasn’t quite so lucky.She had waited for hours for Kimi and when he eventually emerged to cross the paddock to the garage, she chased him, begging for an autograph. “Please, please, please!” she wailed. Kimi was unperturbed and maintained his focus on the garage. “Please, Please!” she continued to beg, but to no avail.Kimi just kept moving and remained detached. That’s his way.Perhaps Kimi should get a scooter like Lewis; seen below with his delightful physio Angela Cullen in hot pursuit. This tactic is a cracker for avoiding autograph/selfie hunters.During the Saturday morning session I shot from the exit of spoon curve and got eaten badly by mosquitoes. On Friday, I shot from the esses. I did have a giggle when I saw another seasoned pro photographer lose his phone over the fence and onto the track during one of the sessions. That’s the sort of thing that I could see myself doing but haven’t as yet done so. I was thankful to have my 18-year old son Tyler shooting with me in Japan. He took this pic of me carting around my 600mm lens and wearing one of my new F1 shirts. I had previously worn 4 cotton polo shirts at the past 30 races and decided it was time for a change. In the downtime when there is no action on track I spend my time looking for shots of drivers, ideally with clean backgrounds or backgrounds that identify the track, like Suzuka’s ferris wheel.If there are no drivers to be found, there are always fans, team personnel, ex-racecar drivers now married to team bosses (Susie Wolff, wife of Mercedes boss Toto Wolff)and TV presenters like Federica Masolin who was dressed simply on race day but spiced things up with the brightest of red lipsticks. Back to the action on track and after the drivers’ parade on Sunday, Lewis got on his scooter and headed downhill past the grandstand acknowledging his sizable fan base. For the race start I chose to go to the tower at the chicane. Being a photographer means you can only see a small section of the track at any one time. All the time you’re hoping for something interesting to take place in your viewfinder so on the first lap of the race, I was excited to see Max Verstappen run off the track at the chicane.and make contact with Kimi Raikkonen on his way back onto the track. The sun shone for much of the race and I spent my time around the chicane where the range of shots on offer was wide. It’s so rare to get such clean shots with grass in the foreground and crowd or ferris wheel behind. After the chequered flag had been waved I sprinted for a spot on the parc ferme fence putting me centimetres away from 3rd place-getter Max Verstappen.Lewis had his own photographer at parc ferme who obviously was unaware of the rules and proceeded to head towards the car as the Mercedes champ was about to get out (grey t-shirt below).He was quickly removed by the FIA media people.
An hour or so after the podium presentation, Mercedes did their traditional celebration pic and it always ends with the winning driver spraying his team members with champagne.However, during last night’s celebration a photographer accidentally knocked over one of the 3 trophies, chipping off a section at the back (see below). It will be fixed I’m sure.
That wraps up a great 4 days in Suzuka and 10 days in Japan for me. If you’ve never been to this country you should get here and take it all in. It’s mighty, although the traffic out of the track each night is horrendous so do what some of the drivers did, and take a helicopter.
More in 11 days from Austin Texas. Sayonara!