There were two big stories today. 1) Lewis Hamilton crashed in qualifying (his car came back to the pits on a truck),and 2) some Mercedes Benz team members were held up at gunpoint as they left the track last night. Another car carrying some FIA people was also targeted and the occupants had guns pointed at them but they got away without giving up anything. The Mercedes people weren’t so lucky, they lost their laptops and perhaps more. It happened at a set of traffic lights not far from the track where there are normally police, however, it was late in the evening and the police had gone.
Sao Paulo is renowned for this sort of shit although someone did tell me that here you won’t get shot, not the case in Rio he claimed. Jensen Button survived a near kidnap some years ago and there are many stories of F1 people being robbed at gunpoint. Pretty sobering stuff.
But inside the track we’re all safe and able to shoot anyone we like, with cameras. I shot Daniel Ricciardo, who was all smiles this morning as he arrived. And I shot his mate Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley and others as they entered the Paddock. Two of F1’s elder statesmen, Jackie Stewart and Bernie Ecclestone, were in the Paddock with Jackie wearing a familiar smile. At 11am the cars were on track for FP3 and I went to turns 12 and 13 ready to get wet (but we had no rain thankfully). There is a photography hole in the mesh fence that allows us to shoot the cars heading uphill with some faveles in the background.In the shot below, Brendon Hartley kicked up some water that sat in the kerbing.The reason you can’t see the armco barrier and fencing on the far side of the car and track is that the land drops steeply resulting in the shot from the other side being an uphill one with just sky (or in today’s case) cloud in the background.Shooting from a little further along the track there is more background to see but thankfully still no fence.Even further up the hill I was able to shoot through the mesh fence with a 500mm lens at f4 (to ensure the wire disappears) with Max Verstappen running a little wide. I spent about 10 minutes in this spot and would have taken 300 shots, perhaps more, shooting in bursts of 4 – 10 shots allowing me to select the best shot.
At 2pm it was time for qualifying and within the first few minutes of the first of 3 sessions, the world champion Lewis Hamilton slid sideways into the tyre barrier and took no further part. He will start from the back of the grid, not something he’s used to.
I was positioned at turn 2, nowhere near the crash corner unfortunately and nothing as exciting as that happened near me. You can stand right next to the armco here as the cars exit the pits and there is no fence above to make things difficult. Admittedly they’re not travelling that fast but it’s still a buzz to be a couple of metres from them especially when sitting on the ground shooting through the armco.A few metres from this point is a photography tower that allows us to shoot down on the cars as they traverse the pit lane exit and it offers a different perspective both tight and wide. It’s also possible to sit on the ground and shoot low as the cars go away from the lens. At the end of qualifiy these three finely dressed chaps were the fastest with Valtteri Bottas (the non-Ferrari) driver being the fastest and earning the right to start on pole position.There was a bit of a cock-up after the session though as the Ferraris didn’t get the memo that the top 3 wouldn’t stop on the track as they normally do, but would instead head back up pit lane, so they were stranded on the track.Then, post race I stopped to snap a couple of the drivers doing interviews in the pen and noted that Sebastian Vettel looks to his left quite a lot when being interviewed.Tomorrow is the final day for Sao Paulo armed robbers to have a crack at F1 personnel but let’s hope they observe the sabbath and give it a miss.
Boa Noite from Brazil.