The F1 cars were on track for 2 one-hour sessions on qualifying day and for the first session I headed to the pits where I found a jolly Max Verstappen.He wasn’t laughing 3 hours later when he put his Red Bull into the wall at turn two but more about that later.
Earlier in the day I went through the ritual of photographing the primary movers and shakers of the sport arriving at “work” and was thrilled that the head honchos of the 3 big teams all looked at my lens when they headed up the stairs to their offices. You don’t get that with many drivers. I scored a pit tabard for free practice 3 and headed into pit lane. The actual task of getting into the cars now that the halo has been fitted is a tricky one requiring some work on the driver’s part. Here’s Lewis Hamilton carefully arranging his tackle (as he always does) before sliding into his seat. I guess given you’re in that seat for up to 2 hours at a time, you want to make sure everything’s in the right place.Some of the newer drivers, like Brendon hartley, get into the garage well before the sessions start providing a chance to photograph them as they prepare.I had to virtually lay down to get this ground level shot of Brendon’s racing boots.I caught this nice portrait shot of Romain Grosjean.And this awkward shot of Lance Stroll.In the back of the McLaren garage the helmets, gloves and balaclavas for their two drivers are neatly arranged. Here you can see the writing on the pull-off visor tabs denoting what type of pull-offs have been fitted. The cars will often come in for a practice pit stop and tear off again. Thankfully the team staff let you know when that happens and move you well back, otherwise there could be carnage with photographers standing in front of the car thinking they are coming into be garaged. That session finished at 4pm so after an hour’s editing I headed back to the paddock and thoroughly enjoyed the 50 minutes wandering around. There was cool lounge music wafting down from one of the corporate areas above the garages, the temperature had dropped to a very comfortable 27 degrees and there were some interesting folk to be photographed, including Bernie Ecclestone pressing home his point with Niki Lauda. This guy was the epitome of cool I thought.This woman was elegantly dressed. And these youngsters were on the hunt for autographs.With there being so many people in the paddock, the drivers face a challenge getting from their suites on one side, to their garages on the other without being stopped by punters. Sebastian Vettel jogged through the masses. While Lewis went a step better, riding his scooter the 35 metres.The session got underway with just a bit of light in the sky as I headed to the first corner.Many of the cars were sparking when they were on a fast lap which provides good pics but capturing them is quite a challenge. Panning with a car travelling around 300kms an hour and using a slow shutter speed to add length to the sparks is a practiced art; the best guys have been doing it for decades. Romain Grosjean misjudged the first corner and ran wide as per below.But it was Max Verstappen who brought the session to a halt when he collided with the tyre wall on the exit of turn 2. At the time I was standing with a handful of photographers about 250 metres away and around the corner. We heard tyres screeching and then a thud. A few of us looked at each other for a split second and then, realising what had transpired, sprinted to the scene.
At the end of qualifying Sebastian Vettel had pipped Kimi Raikkonen for pole position and was rightfully quite chuffed given his car had problems in the session prior and it was looking like Kimi might be the fastest man of the night. The top 3 cars park on the track and after interviews, the drivers exit the track and pose up for a top 3 pic. As Kimi came through, he headed straight at me with speed. I was crouched and shooting up when I realised I was in danger of getting bowled over resulting in me having to move quickly to avoid being taken out. Thankfully I got my shot. The drivers did their top 3 shot.And then, after the press conference, the drivers went downstairs to do interviews in the paddock in an area bordered by palm trees covered with fairy lights. This provides an opportunity to shoot nicely lit portraits of the drivers, like this one of pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel.The Bahrain GP will see the two Ferraris on the front row with Valterri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo on the second row. Lewis Hamilton suffered a 5-place grid penalty and will start from 9th, while Max Verstappen will start 15th. I’m hoping that Daniel can make it onto the podium but at any rate, it should prove a good race with some overtaking – a novelty in this sport.
And in closing, here’s world champion Lewis Hamilton’s helmet from four angles.