I landed at Vienna airport at 9.30pm last night after a 24 hour trip from Perth and then drove 2 hours to my hotel in Leoben This morning, the Austrian countryside revealed itself and it was magnificent? Lush hills and mountains covered with pine trees, fields of corn 2 metres high, happy people and a plethora of camping grounds close to the Red Bull Ring, easily the most picturesque circuit of the 9 I have photographed this year.
I decided to drive around the outskirts of the track before going inside and ended up in a camping ground overlooking the circuit so I shot the panorama above which features 3 images spliced together seemlessly in Lightroom (a 10 second job). I then parked and headed to the media centre which sits on the top floor of the grandstand complex opposite the pits (the Voestalpine building below). This is the first track I’ve been to where the media centre is not on the same side as the paddock. We’re required to walk under the track via a tunnel to get to the paddock which is where most of the action is when the cars are not on the track.
The media centre itself looks like a NASA control room with space for a couple of hundred media and huge screens set up at one end. The views from the expansive windows are also pleasing to the eye. Interestingly the Red Bull piece below, which sits right in the middle of the track, can’t be used by Red Bull as there is a contractual dispute over it.On the ground floor of that building is a media eatery that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and, of course, every type of Red Bull beverage, all at no charge. It’s good food in a top setting and floating in the void adjacent to the area is a huge red bull made from glass balls.Many of the drivers and their team mates walk the track in the direction they drive it so I went out and walked it in the opposite direction so the drivers were always coming towards me. I took most of these around the final 2 turns. There are some lovely richly painted sections of the track (red being the predominant colour being we’re in Austria) and they will feature in many of the images over the next 3 days when the cars are on track. The drivers have regularly scheduled team press conferences held normally near their paddock hospitality areas and I spent a little time at Daniel Ricciardo’s in the afternoon. It had just started to rain so a lot of the media had umbrellas up but the sun was out so I was really hoping the sun would hit Dan in the face while the umbrellas provided some colour. It had the potential to be a really great shot but the sun and his hat conspired against me getting the perfect shot but I didn’t leave totally disappointed. And then as Daniel was walking away he turned back for a moment and I managed to get him with the red Ferrari trailer behind him. The 3pm press conference was one of the most eagerly awaited for a long time as it featured Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. The press conference room was packed with everyone wanting to hear what both had to say about the Baku incident. I got there well early and secured a spot right at the front of the room.You can read the transcripts on a number of sites but in general, the two were happy and smiling. The stickers on the seats indicated that Seb and Lewis were going to sit next to each other but it ended up with Kevin Magnussen splitting the pair. Poor Kevin, he was virtually ignored while everyone fired questions at the other two.I like the pic below which came at an interesting moment when everyone had a laugh, even media boss Matteo Bonciani had a smile on his face.In general there were plenty of smiles from both of the Baku combatants. After that, Carlos Sainz, Max Verstappen and Felipe Massa fronted a smaller media contingent I did learn that after Max’s car ran out of steam in Baku during the last race, he simply returned to his hotel room at the Hilton (which is inside the track). He said it took him ten minutes to find the race on a TV channel and he watched the rest of the race from there. Towards the end of the day I went down to the pits to see if I could find a pic amongst the throng of spectators who lapped up the chance to walk down pit lane. I’m looking for people who stand out from the crowd, cute kids, glamorous women and those in zany outfits.I have no idea what this is about though.
The day was a leisurely one and tomorrow we’ll see the cars on the track. I’ll be heading to the last turn initially and am looking forward to it. More tomorrow evening Austrian time. Gute nacht!