This race I was lucky to have my wife Tonya shooting with me. (thanks to Jerry Andre for the pic) Tonya and I spent 26 weeks in Africa over a 60-month period shooting wildlife for our book Africa on Safari a few years back but shooting fast cars is a much different game.
Harking back to Thursday, I took this shot of Seb and Charles and one Insta follower noticed the Australian flag on his bike. On the Friday I caught up with Seb and asked him about it. (thanks to toutf1com for this one) He said it was custom made in Melbourne and then proceeded to locate the businesses Instagram page, Just Ride It Bikes. He had two made.
Friday saw me at Les Combes shooting in sunny conditions. Here’s one of my favourite angles from the weekend.I spent Saturday morning’s session in the pits where each team has lighting above their cars in the garage. But there is a variety of lighting systems in place. Here are three different designs.
While in the pits I took this portrait shot of Red Bull garage manager Nigel Hope looking powerful. And when Lewis crashed in the session I got this shot of him emerging from the medical car and heading straight into the garage holding the right side of his stomach. After the session ended I placed my camera on the ground, on the white painted stripe to shoot Daniil Kvyat walking back to the garage with his Aussie trainer Stuart Smith. I was fortunate that they walked either side of the stripe making it a more appealing image to the eye.
Just prior to that, Lando Norris was walking back to the McLaren garage but he had the sun at his back making for an ordinary looking image. As he passed me I followed him with my lens hoping he’d turn around and to my delight he did, to check if there were cars coming, putting his face in nice light and with an out of focus background.Qualifying saw me stationed around the first corner on the outside of the track looking to feature the brightly painted kerbs.Things changed suddenly on Saturday afternoon while I was editing in the media centre. We have a number of TVs in there showing on-track action and just after 5pm the live broadcast of the F2 race was underway when several photographers reacted in shock to a crash at the top of Raidillon.
This was the accident that claimed the life of 22-year old French driver Anthoine Hubert. The replays showed it to be a very quick and savage collision involving a number of cars. It was clear that there would be injuries.
The incident was replayed many times and it was evident that the forces in play were in the “tens of Gs”. As I left the track around 7pm, the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles could still be seen at the crash site. It wasn’t until I saw Charles Leclerc’s post on Instagram back at my hotel that I realised Anthoine had died.
Early on race day I walked up to the crash site and was surprised to see a huge convoy of emergency vehicles moving slowly along the track. They eventually came to a halt, with the marshals standing trackside in honour of Anthoine. That was moving, but there were two other planned events that would result in many more tears.
On the main straight prior to the F3 race, Anthoine’s mother Nathalie and his brother Victor were surrounded by more than 200 members of the racing community for a minute’s silence.It was poignant, it was moving. “Parents should never bury their children” my mother would say but this is what the Hubert family is now facing. After the silence, Anthoine’s driver mates embraced Nathalie, and that’s when it became heart-wrenching. So many tears, so many long and loving hugs. I’ve not witnessed anything like it; I hope not to again.
The mood in the paddock was subdued for the whole day but there was a race to be run and run it would be. The 20 cars formed up on the grid. And then it was off on a 44 lap journey. Charles lead the field into the first turn. I shot with a 600mm lens and condensed much of the field into this shot with Kimi Raikkonen the centre of attention. I think this will make a super double page spread in any book which will come next year.
At lap 19 the entire crowd stood and applauded. 19 was Anthoine’s racing number. This was not the first time I had witnessed a crowd honouring the dead. In Mexico in 2018, coincidently on lap 19, the entire crowd stood to honour those killed in two earthquakes. I remember glancing up at the big screen that day and seeing lap 19 and swinging around to see if they were still standing and thankfully they were and this was the sight that greeted me. So powerful. There were many car shots taken, but with 14 laps to go I headed back to parc ferme, hopeful of a Charles Leclerc win. I wasn’t disappointed and managed to get a head on shot of him pointing skyward in remembrance of Anthoine and most likely his friend Jules Bianchi and his late father. I stayed with Charles for the next 90 minutes looking for shots as the young Monagasque soaked up the win. Ferrari don’t normally do race win celebration shots but they broke with tradition for Charles’ maiden win. At one point Charles realised Seb wasn’t in the front row and then spotted him right up the back. I guess Seb wanted to let Charles enjoy the experience on his own, a gracious gesture although he was encouraged many times to come and join the maiden winner.
After a 12 hour, emotion ridden day I left the track knowing I’d been part of an amazing weekend filled with some humour, much sadness, great respect and good people. I’m lucky to be a part of this show and will be keen to get to Monza on Thursday for round 14.
RIP ANTHOINE HUBERT