I was one of the first into the Silverstone media centre yesterday (raceday) and was happy to see three police dogs and their handlers sweep the area for explosives. Who doesn’t love a dog hey and the three working this area were certainly eager to sniff out something that would get them a reward from their handler.After they had departed, having found nothing, I walked the 100 metres to the paddock entrance where I discovered 4 guards dressed royally. They heralded the arrival of each driver with a short burst from their shiny instrument; it was a great touch. I posed for a pic with them as did Romain Grossjean and Felipe Massa and his family. They startled Max Verstappen with their “heralding”. Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso sprinted into the track today so they didn’t have a chance to hear their fanfare at all. On the Saturday prior to a GP I receive an email with the list of celebrities who’ll be in attendance on raceday so I knew former English heavyweight boxer Frank Bruno would be in the paddock. I originally thought this (below) was him but then realised (well I had to ask a couple of other photographers) it was, in fact, US Olympic gold medal sprinter Michael Johnson.
At 10am there was a photo opportunity with Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson whose voices feature in the new animated movie, Cars 3. The company behind the movie did a sponsorship deal with F1 and as such, they had a garage in the pits with two of the cars from the movie parked up. When I arrived, there were already 30-odd photographers in attendance along with the director of the movie, and Ross Brawn and Chase Carey from F1. I like Woody Harrelson and don’t mind Owen so it was good to see them in the flesh. Despite some feedback from other photographers that Owen was not too tolerant of photographers, he was fine, even taking off his sunglasses when asked. At 11.30am, 90 minutes prior to the start of the race, the drivers took to open top sports cars and were paraded around the track. The pic below of Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo (who started 20th and finished 5th) was a favourite of mine as he looked at the camera and smiled. It was a headline pic for an F1.com story later in the day. Felipe Massa checked his phone while waving to the crowd and Lance Stroll used his phone to video the proceedings.The star of the parade though was hometown hero Lewis Hamilton.The grid girls looked classy in their Rolex outfits, the same outfits the Melbourne grid girls wore. They were overseen/directed/assisted by intriguing Parisian style guru and expert conversationalist Sophie Molina. She later confided that being on the grid for the hour leading up to the GP was a thrill. If you’ve ever watched the TV broadcast of the race you’ll have an idea of what it’s like. Being there in person is a different matter as you realise how busy the area is with several hundred people all moving about with purpose in a confined space doing their thing. Then, a few minutes before the scheduled start time and just after the colourful flyover in the case of this event, everyone on the grid has to move to the side of the track while the cars take off on their warm-up lap. After the last car has taken off, the hundreds have to funnel through a couple of gates and run back to where they came from and they have just a couple of minutes while the cars do a single warm-up lap. That’s a sight in itself.After the warm-up lap today, the field did another warm-up lap as Jolyon Palmer’s car didn’t last the first warm-up lap (shades of Daniel Ricciardo’s drama in Melboure at the season opener) and his car had to be removed from the trackside grass where he had stopped it. Once that was done, the field of 19 thundered towards me at turn 1 with all getting around it without incident. A couple of laps later though, the safety car came out which was my cue to pack up and head to the ferris wheel in the middle of the track.I paid my 5 Pounds and jumped in to my own cabin and rode it for about 7 minutes. This was not a joyride, I was shooting from the cabin and the resultant shots were certainly different to the ground level stuff that most of us get. The middle part of the race was spent on the inside of Becketts corner where the cars were sparking again although not as spectacularly as the day prior. If you’re a photographer you’ll appreciate how tricky it is to pan with a car at speed, shooting at a slow shutter speed of less than 1/50th of a second and getting the driver’s helmet sharp. This is a skill I’m getting more proficient at but when I see the experienced guys shooting at say a tenth or less, I am in awe.I dropped my long lens and backpack off at the media centre before queuing for the parc ferme and podium shots. When the gates were opened, about 60 of us dashed down pit lane to secure a spot to shoot the arriving cars. I chose the side-on shot and was just inches away from Valtteri Bottas as he got a congratulatory high 5 from one of his Mercedes crew members. Another Mercedes crew member, Jimmy with the impressive moustache, caught my eye again, delighted that both of their drivers were on the podium.Lewis was the last of the top 3 drivers to return to parc ferme and was suitably happy, striking his signature pose on top of the car before jumping off and celebrating with his mates. A few minutes later he bounded on to the podium where he collected his prize and sprayed Carbon champagne about.It was expected that if Lewis Hamilton won, he would surf the huge crowd not far from the podium. There were a dozen or so photographers waiting for him on the fence and true to form, he sprinted over to the wall to greet his fans. I was with 10 photographers about 30metres away and we were told by an FIA official that we could not go and join Lewis, however, once a couple of photographers further up the line made a dash for it, it was a free-for-all.
I ended up right in the thick of things and as you can see from these pics, taken with a 16-35mm lens, he was very close to me. There is little skill and lots of luck involved with these types of shots as the camera is held high above the head while the shutter is fired off; you have no idea what’s in the frame, you simply hope you get something that’s usable.
Lewis is a showman, there’s no doubt of that and he really wowed his home fans today and for some time. After that he returned to the media centre for the obligatory press conference and I settled down to edit my pics and post them on line before making a dash to Heathrow to get my flight back to Perth. As my driver headed into the airport he had a minor collision with a bus, well, that resulted in him pulling alongside the bus and giving the guy a huge spray of abuse. A few minutes later at the drop off area it nearly turned into a fist fight which was my cue to hightail it out of there.
The British GP marks the half-way point of the season and the question I’m asked most often about my first year in F1 is, “What has been your favourite grand prix?”, so here is how I have rated the 10 thus far:
1 (Best) – Monaco
2 – Austria
3 – Azerbaijan
4 – Russia
5 – Bahrain
6 – Britain
7 – Canada
8 – Spain
9 – Melbourne
10 – China
I’ve loved every event, met some interesting and colourful people, made some super new friends, seen things up close that I’ve only ever seen on TV and improved my photography no end. I still have 6 more trips and 10 more events to go before the season finishes and I hope you will continue to enjoy the read and SHARE these blogs with your friends.
More from Budapest in 9 days time.