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Today’s season-ending race was my 20th in 8 months and what a year it has been.  I’ve been to 28 different airports, had 58 takeoffs and (thankfully) 58 landings, spent over 140 hours in airports, 434 hours in planes (mainly Emirates A380s), flown more than 350,000 kms, shot more than 340,000 images and loved almost every minute of it. Aside from my home port of Perth, Dubai, has been my most frequented airport over the 86 days that I’ve photographed F1 related stuff and that’s where I’m finalising this blog right now.

My favourite hotel was the Palacio Tangara, Sao Paolo and the worst, by a huge margin, the Qafqaz Hotel, Baku (I lasted just 80 minutes there).

My favourite race was Monaco for a number of reasons and my least favourite, Shanghai, China (but I still enjoyed each one). But let’s get back to today’s events in the UAE; here’s what I witnessed.

Brendon Hartley arriving (I instantly thought of that memorable scene from the movie, Something About Mary).  Daniel Ricciardo was in a hurry.The woman below struck me as near-perfect and thanked me for taking her photo.Poor Fernando, like every other driver, got bailed up by some selfie fiend just shy of getting into the Paddock.  And I asked this grid girl to look over her shoulder at me (my trademark move) as the group of 30 or so marched past me.Now I know I mentioned this in yesterday’s blog, but these grid girls were dressed in the most stylish outfits of the year and I couldn’t help but think that the woman below looked like she meant business.And this one had a first class smile.

Ninety minutes before the 5pm race, I was on the grid to photograph the end of year drivers group shot. While waiting for the drivers though I spotted this grinning guy with his quirky flag,and last year’s World Champ Nico Rosberg with some nice light on one side of his face. Then it was time to round up all of the drivers and coral them onto the back of a truck so they can look at all of the punters in the stands around the track. As they returned, I snapped them into the sun for a silhouette shot.In the pic below though, can you spot Lewis Hamilton on the right? He was the first to alight the cattle truck, jumping down well before it had stopped and long before the other drivers were permitted to safely climbed down using the stairs at the back. I’ve seen him do this a few times this year; it’s like he just can’t wait to be done with it.

As the truck was pulling up, about 120 men took to the track to perform a traditional dance, with sticks!  I’m not sure I got the whole thing, it looked a little dull compared with say the over-the-top presentation at Sochi.  But it could also be that I’m just not cultured enough. Yes, let’s put it down to that.

I dipped out on a grid pass so I had to observe the pre-race mayhem from the pit wall. As you can see, the cars head up the pit lane while the mechanics, spectators, celebs and guests walk  right next to them in the other direction.   It’s hard to believe that no one gets cleaned up by these colourful machines.

Then the official guarding the gate above which I was shooting the pre-race action on the track, advised me that the Prime Minister, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, was just seconds away from taking to the grid. He rolled up with quite an entourage and made his way out to the grid for the UAE national anthem.  Can you spot him and a cheeky Daniel Ricciardo?After that it was a swift walk out to turn 2 to take up my position for the opening lap.As the cars ran up the hill towards me I kept my finger on the shutter, focusing on the lead car, that of Valtteri Bottas. It would turn out that the top 3 finishers were the top 3 starters, in the same order.

I then moved along the track, shooting from a few positions over 60 minutes. I was shooting the cars going away from me at one point when I felt a tap on my shoulder by a fellow photographer who was directing my attention to Daniel Ricciardo who’d pulled on to the grass after developing an engine problem that would render his season complete, half way through the final race. This pic was shot from this photography hole and I really like the sky.It was at the hairpin a little further around the track where I noticed that a couple of the drivers had clear visors allowing a clear shot of the drivers’ eyes.  I can’t remember seeing their eyes at any other event this year.   With 30 minutes of the race remaining I caught the photography shuttle back to the Paddock, changed gear and queued for parc ferme.  Unfortunately, the top two cars didn’t return to parc ferme, instead they stopped on track after doing some smoking donuts. This rendered no shots of the top two, and an average shot of 3rd placed Sebastian Vettel.Oh, and I did snare a shot of Valtteri’s wife (she’s the one in focus) only because I spotted 2 TV cameras training their lenses on her.  When it came time for the champagne, instead of the announcer announcing, “Now it’s time for the champagne”, he swapped “champagne” for “celebration” as the UAE is not openly accepting of alcohol although it was being enthusiastically downed at the F1 parties around the track.   So there you have it, the last of my race day posts for season 2017.  Thanks for getting through to the end and feel free to share this with your mates.

Thanks again to Tonya and my two boys for allowing me to leave them for nearly half a year and for Kirrily for running my companies. To Thommo, Mark, Clive, Will, Jerry, Manuel, Mirko, Lionel, James, James, Simon, Joe, Darren, Vlad, Jodie, Julia, Paul, Daniel, Andy, Steve, Glen, Lorenzo, Pierre, Georgie, James, Bradley, Rob, Matteo, Chris and all of the other people I’ve met this year, THANKS for making this year one of the best of my life.