My two teenage boys went to the same school as the winner of today’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo. It was a delight to sing the Australian national anthem with Daniel and a small number of Australians in the crowd following his first win of the season. Remember, he started from 10th and ended up first; top effort that. I left the Boulavard Hotel at 9.30am and returned at 11pm after a hot and sweaty day of F1 photography. After getting a myriad of photo gear from my locker in the ballroom of the Hilton Hotel when I arrived, it was down to the paddock to snap drivers, luminaries and beauties as they arrived. The fine looking woman above is Vicktoria Odintsova, a model with 3.9m followers on instagram and she looked pretty special today, that’s for sure.
This event is the newest on the F1 calendar and I was surprised to learn that 67% of the tickets were sold to the local population, as the price of a grandstand ticket is equivalent to roughly a month’s wages. The remaining 33% were sold to spectators from 65 different countries, doubling the figures compared to the previous year.
Around 3.30pn (the race started at 5pm) I went down on the track for the drivers’ parade and photographed them wending their way through a corridor of Azerbaijan grid girls. After that I walked back to the Hilton Hotel and headed up to the rooftop to photograph the Azerbaijan welcome ceremony which was both elaborate and colourful. I guess this is their equivalent of an Olympic Games opening ceremony. Today was the first time I’ve been granted a grid pass so I went back down to the pits in search of a pic. Now, I had a suspicion that Mariah Carey (ex love interest of Aussie billionaire James Packer) might visit the Red Bull garage given she was in concert after the race and I was thrilled to indeed find her in their garage.
She had her son with her and was getting a tour of the garage when I wandered in and what struck me instantly was how radiant she looked, how chubby her cheeks were and how tight her dress was. She is 47 years old, has a fair booty on her and presents impressively. I saw pics from her concert where she wears what is virtually a one piece swimming costume that shows off her voluptuous figure – she’s certainly bold, I give her that. I was surprised that there were only 3 or 4 photographers around, unlike when Chris Hemsworth joined Red Bull team in Monaco when there were 30+. Drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen appeared and posed for this pic. And then she and her entourage, including an umbrella holder, headed on to the grid. Mariah’s son was with her and there was some discussion about the young fella being allowed on the grid but in the end he gained access and was even offered a seat in the safety car. I then asked Mariah if she might get in too. She said “I’m not sure if I’ll fit in the thing” but to her credit she gave it a go, much to the delight of about a dozen photographers who’d got wind of her presence. After the race, while editing pics, I was delighted to see that two of these pics had made it on to the Daily Mail website which would be viewed by hundreds of thousands of people around the globe.
Access to the starting grid of an F1 race is limited but today, I was granted a grid pass which was quite a thrill. In short, it was absolute mayhem.
Engineers and pit crew battle to get their gear through a throng of media and celebrities and then the cars roll up. You don’t know where to look. There are beautiful and influential people everywhere and it all happens in the space of about 15 minutes. Above is the president of Azerbaijan.This fellow is a Mercedes team member and I must admit I love his moustache.Flavio Benatore (above) is the man behind clothing retailer Benetton, a former major sponsor of F1 back in the Schumacher era.And here’s the current F1 supremo Chase Carey with his jacket off, and no wonder as it was probably 33 degrees celsius on the track and mighty humid.
After we were ushered from the grid it was back up to the top of the Hilton to photograph the start. I used my favourite tilt shift lens, the 45mm for this shot and then used a long lens to shoot the cars as they headed towards turn one. After that, I treked a kilometre back up the starting straight to a couple of corners that I thought might be worth shooting. The surround buildings put most of the track in that region in shade which meant it was a little more tricky than usual finding a shot. And then I moved to a photography hole on the corner I shot from the top of a 7 storey building yesterday during qualifying. I could see from the roof yesterday that they got very close to the wall, but until I got down there, I had no idea how close. Have a look at Carlos Sainz below, he must be less than 20 cm from the wall and my camera is right on top of it. Heading back to the pits I walked along the main straight and I have to admit I nearly shit myself when Vettel raced past as the noise and hot wind vortex took me by complete surprise. The cars do around 350km/hr along that straight and it’s an impressive sight. I noticed a couple of cars sparking but struggled to get much in the way of a sparking shot to rival my Melbourne turn 6 effort.
The race itself was a stop/start affair with crashes and incidents causing the safety car to come out numerous times and then the race had to be stopped for 10-20 minutes while the track was cleared.
I arrived back at the pits with ten laps remaining and queued to get a good spot for the top three arriving back at parc ferme. What was nice was 18 year old Canadian Lance Stroll scoring his first podium finish (3rd) and drinking a “shoey” with Daniel.His father had a tear in his eye as he watched on from just behind me.After the podium, the top 3 headed to the media centre for the post-race press conference where Daniel was full of cheer!While Valtteri was his normal calm and composed self.Red Bull celebrates wins and podiums for the media so after the press conference it was down to the pits for Daniel to get amongst his team mates for a group photo. Of course the team sponsorship manager was there handing out the sponsor’s product for the world to see after which Daniel joined a smaller group of team members for another photo shoot for the media. It’s now 1.24am and quite frankly I’ve had enough so the blog ends now. Let’s re-convene in Austria in 10 days time.