Well done Valtteri Bottas. His first win since Baku this year. This was my first 3-day grand prix thanks to Typhoon Hagibis which rendered Saturday a day off. It rained the whole day (not heavily) but the winds were mild during the day in Yokkaichi where we were staying. In the evening though, they picked up, but compared to other areas, we were treated kindly. Elsewhere there were much stronger winds and heavier rain resulting in at least 30 deaths.
Most (if not all) of the drivers were staying at the Circuit Hotel and they spent the Saturday hanging out there. I had lunch at the hotel restaurant and was amazed to find about 30 die-hard fans camped out in the lobby. They got quite animated every time a driver passed them.
Sunday, race day was a long day. It yielded 470 good photos for me so there was plenty to shoot and no time to waste. I arrived at the track at 7am to shoot the drivers interacting with the fans as they entered and Nico Hülkenberg had these stand-out jeans on: a pair of Dolce & Gabbanas.I met Guenther Steiner’s wife Gertraud in the paddock for the first time and both were happy to pose for a shot.It should be said that Suzuka is the only track I can remember with a bank of vending machines in the paddock. If there is another one I certainly don’t remember it, but they serve hot and cold drinks and were popular throughout the event.Heading out for qualifying on Sunday morning, I passed the spot where Jules Bianchi had the savage collision that took his life back in 2015 and found 2 bouquets of flowers. There was no note, but it caused me to stop and reflect on the dangers of this sport for a minute. Given we had little time between qualifying and the race and plenty to do, I stayed close to the paddock to shoot quali and was rewarded with a few drivers producing some spectacular sparks at 130R, like Pierre Gasly.Back at the entry to the pit lane I shot from here and produced my best photo of the event (it’s the final blog pic). Throughout the day I got some nice shots of drivers acknowledging the lens which is always a bonus. While on the subject of Pierre Gasly, I noted that the pic on his pass (below) must have been taken some years ago as he looks much younger on it. And he, like Daniel Ricciardo, likes Gucci backpacks. The drivers don’t normally wear their race suits during the drivers’ parade, but given the short time between quali, the parade and the race, many chose to stay in their suits. The Suzuka track only had one gate open to the grid from the pit lane, so many of the drivers jumped the fence to return to their garages prior to the start of the race. Here’s Carlos, Lando and Dan.One of my favourite pics from the grid was this shot of Sergio Perez bringing his car up to the rear of the grid.I spent most of the race around the chicane and was rewarded with a coming together of Albon and Norris a few laps in that sent Norris across the AstroTurf. I only noted while editing later, how much of that AstroTurf adheres to the tyres of cars that pass over it.
The Ferris wheel played a major part in many of my shots from this area as is evident in this shot of Romain Grosjean.
And as I walked back to shoot parc ferme and the podium, I noticed many more photographers in the spot I shot on Friday. I thought it was worth shooting further back so you could see the number of shooters and how close they are to the cars. Harking back to Friday, I shot the cars coming out of Degner 2 and going under the straight above. The overpass creates a 30m-wide shadow that cars pass through allowing for a shot like this.Because I expose for the car in shadow, the areas in light are blown out. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years and was glad I had an hour there to experiment. And what was my best pic of the weekend? I liked the one below of Grosjean locking up coming into the pit lane. A reminder that I post my best pics and interesting tales on Instagram (@kymillman) all through the week, you can purchase any of my images at www.prostarpics.com and you’ll see my videos on YouTube (KymIllman).
It’s a week off, then off to Mexico for the Mexico City/Austin doubleheader, the 4th and 3rd last races of the season. Right now though, it’s sayonara from Japan.