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2019 ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX POST-RACE BLOG

For me, yesterday was all about this man!
It was Nico Hülkenberg’s last F1 race for the foreseeable future, and I was rewarded photographically throughout the day, starting from the moment Nico entered the paddock.I had been on at both Nico and his girlfriend Egle Ruskyte (AKA Sunny) for over a year for a two shot of the couple in the paddock. He would rarely walk with her and certainly never held hands or put his arm round her, but yesterday was different, and I was thankful to be in the right spot to document it.

At the Renault team photo shoot, the entire crew and even driving partner Daniel Ricciardo posed for the final shot wearing Nico wigs which went down a treat not only with those in pit lane, but the quarter of a million sets of eyes who saw it on my Instagram feed. It was my biggest ever post.When he made his way to the garage for the final time, a guard of honour was formed.After the race, I waited for him to exit the FIA garage where he emerged to hug his trainer Martin Poole while giving me the thumbs up.
Then he found Sunny and embraced her.Then he gave his social media manager, Raoul Spanger, some love!A few hours later he left the paddock, perhaps for the last time in his life, as an F1 driver.Now, I’ve come to know this man over the past 6 months and have found him to be a true gentleman, surrounded by fine staff, team members and family.  He’s witty, cheeky (I copped a nipple cripple from him on Saturday) and sharp.  And look at the expressions on the two girls’ faces in the shot above.  This is the effect he has on almost everyone he meets.  I hope it’s not the last time I see him.

I mentioned Nico was cheeky, well Lando Norris was certainly that yesterday at the drivers’ parade as he grabbed Daniel’s hat and threatened to launch it.  “You do that and yours goes too!” threatened Dan.  Apparently both were launched from the truck.

I was on the grid for the end of year drivers shot and posted this pic on Instagram shortly after taking it.  About an hour after that, I looked at the comments number and saw “70” which is abnormally high for my posts. Almost every comment was about Kimi being so far left of the group, something I hadn’t noticed when I took the shot.  It definitely struck a chord with those who saw it.    Do you recognise the guy standing with me here?He’s one of the top YouTubers, Casey Neistat. He has more than 11 million followers, two of whom are my sons.  My eldest, Tyler, texted me Sunday morning saying he heard Casey was at the race, so when I spotted him on the grid, I not only shot him, I grabbed a selfie too.

You might have noticed that the winner’s champagne bottle looked different on the telecast.  This is it close up.   It was designed by the Vazarely guys. They produce quite elaborate t-shirts, one of which was worn by Pierre Gasly in Brazil 2 weeks ago. The guys behind the brand (left and right) were wearing their creations in the paddock standing with a talented footballer. While in the paddock well after the race I witnessed this bizarre sight!  A man, covered in food, taped to a tyre transport trolley being wheeled down to pit lane.
As he was being wheeled, his Renault teammates were pouring water over him without protest from the man, who’s first name is Nico. Upon their return, their team photographer, James Moy from XPB Images, explained that it is a ritual afforded to those who leave the team and go to work for a rival team.  In this case Nico is moving to Toro Rosso next year so the Renault boys take it upon themselves to present him to his new team in this condition.  The Toro Rosso crew were equally as enthusiastic about it as they poured oil over him before he was wheeled back to Renault to presumably clean up.

On Friday I shot from the top of the W hotel which goes over the track.  It allows for some different types of shots, like this.  And this. I found these two pivotal women in Max Verstappen’s life in the paddock on Saturday.  Left is his girlfriend Dilara Sanlik and right, his sister Victoria who runs the Unleash the Lion fashion label.And I was most fortunate to cross paths with Kimi’s wife Minttu with their daughter Riana. And do you recognise this man?  German readers might recognise his face – others probably not.  But many of you would know his voice and many more would know about his extremely long questions he poses to drivers in the F1 press conferences.  He’s Walter Koster and I had been told by a couple of Instagram followers that he was at the race and they asked me to photograph him. CLICK HERE to hear one of his most memorable questions. And finally, a nice shot of Charles Leclerc and others, leaving the drivers’ end of year pic.  While the racing season has officially concluded there are now 2 days of post-season testing, so make sure you’re following me on Instagram as I’ll be covering testing and posting regularly.  It’s a much better opportunity to get more candid shots of the drivers and team personnel as there are few people in the paddock and the mood is relaxed.

Bye for now.


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