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For the 4 days preceding this, the final race of the 2017 F1 calendar, I photographed Austrian model Antonia Schafer in Abu Dhabi’s Rub Al Khali (The Empty Quarter) near the Saudi border.     It is a special place and worth the 3-hour drive from Abu Dhabi.  But all good things must come to an end and Thursday saw me back at a race track settling in to the Yas Marina Media Centre which was busy with photographers and journalists.

The centre is one of the best this year with good facilities (including a canteen) and a press conference room that’s a mere 30 metres away unlike in Brazil last race where we had to hike 300 metres to hear the drivers talk about their exploits.

There were plenty of fans in pit lane for the Thursday pit walk.I had a few pillows printed with drivers’ faces in the US mid-year and have been looking for an opportunity to use these two together. I found 3 girls who were happy to pose with them and of course it ended up on F1.com because they love that sort of quirky stuff.

I’ve photographed this avid F1 fan a few times this year and she turned up in pit lane again! There were plenty of coloured lines to be photographed on my track walk.  And drivers wandering the Paddock/pits/track. Ferrari did a team photo that took some organising but only their team photographer was allowed to shoot head on, the rest of us were ushered left or right of the main position, but I did love this pic of a peaceful and relaxed Kimi Raikonnen. .The first press conference was a ripper with Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton kicking things off with an awkward handshake. But things turned humorous with Seb having a laugh and Lewis cracking a smile at one point.And then Daniel Ricciardo had the room laughing out loud. The fact that both Lewis and Seb had chalked up 4 world championships each had been mentioned a minute or so prior to Dan working in this gem, ” Between the three of us we’ve got eight world titles, so it’s pretty good!” FRIDAY – The cars were on track at 1pm and I headed to corners 11, 12 and 13 to focus on the chicane where the front of the cars was sunlit while the background was in shadow.    The track is surrounded by boats berthed at the marina and they featured in a number of my shots.  This magnificent beast below is obviously earmarked for Hublot watch clients and is a fair statement!At turn 14 I was shooting cars on the kerb and going away from me, when Nico Hulkenberg came shooting through my viewfinder backwards and off the track.I had a long lens on not expecting a car to be that close to me so after the shot above, I looked to the ground to see what lens I had on my second 1DXMk2 and had a second to decide if the 70-200m lens on the camera would be suitable.  I figured it was better than the 500mm and snapped a number of shots through the wire fence of the car heading back on to the circuit. A corner later, I found Pascal Wherlein on the wrong side of the kerbing as he headed past the Viceroy hotel.I stayed there for 4 nights last week at around AU$200 a night, that same room this weekend is AU$2,300.

After the afternoon session, I went straight to the pit lane exit to ensure I got one of only a few spots suitable for a specific dusk shot.  I then edited my afternoon pics sitting on the ground while I waited 2 hours for the evening session to start.

A short time later a couple of other international photographers rolled up.  Evgeniy Safronov (bottom left in the pic above) is a Russian photographer who snapped the selfie as we bided our time.  The shot I was looking for was this one with the orange sky behind the cars.  As there is rarely cloud in the sky in Abu Dhabi we’re almost always guaranteed to get that rich background for 10 minutes or so.

First up I shot with a 500m lens and a 1.4xs converter to fill the frame with the car. Then I switched to a 70-200mm lens to get a wider view.There’s also a shot of the cars entering the tunnel which goes under the track. Things turned a little interesting 30 minutes into the session when one of the local photographers started encroaching into our shots.  His poor form didn’t go down well and there was a bit of argy bargy and loud talking between Mario and the local photog who got the message and scampered.  This sort of thing happens every now and then although I’ve only witnessed it twice this year.

There were a few other angles to be snapped around turns 1-3,

including one of New Zealander Brendon Hartley who nearly ended up in the barrier after a spin at turn 1.  I was in the wrong spot when I heard the tyres screeching and the best I could do was this frame. And then he got going without any damage.Given it’s now midnight and I’ve had enough typing I’m going to bid you farewell and invite you to share this blog with your friends or order a print of your favourite shot by clicking SHOP above and giving your credit card a workout.