Tuesday March 7th – I grabbed a taxi from Barcelona’s Arts Hotel around 8.15am and headed north to the Circuit de Catalunya for my first day as an F1 photographer.
The first challenge was locating the accreditation office. Twice we circumnavigated the track asking an array of people to help us match the location with our map, garnering a variety of responses.
After locating it some 300m from the track and standing in a queue for 20 minutes, I collected my media pass along with my ticket to the Red Bull Hospitality facility. I’d booked that some time ago through Daniel Bois at Grand Prix Events as I was unsure if I would get accreditation to photograph testing.
I headed into the track and straight to the Red Bull hospitality suite which was impressive to say the least.
Our hosts gave us rundown for the day which involved a number of activities. I elected to do the Pirelli Tire Tour first up which was interesting.
I then headed up to the Media Centre which sits above the pits to collect my media tabard (vest) and put what gear I didn’t need into a locker. The media centre was like a huge classroom filled mostly with men sitting at computers.
I grabbed a 24-70mm and 70-200mm lens each connected to a 1DX Canon camera and headed out. Connected to one of the Canon cameras was a Wireless File Transfer unit allowing me to upload pics to the internet straight from the camera. Despite testing before I left for Spain, it didn’t work exactly as planned but should be ok for Day 2. I headed up to the exit of the pits where cars practiced their launch starts. I could stand just 3 metres from the car as the driver readied the craft for a high speed get away.
I then moved a hundred metres down the track to photograph cars coming towards me and was thrilled to see the heat haze produced by the engine revving at its max, was clearly visible.
After this it was time for a tour of the Red Bull garage. This is why opting to pay the the big dollars to be a Red Bull (or any other team) guest is worthwhile. We walked in to the garage as Daniel Ricciardo was about to head out on the track. We put the headphones and listened to the engineer run Dan through the purpose of the 6 laps he was about to embark on.
The doors to the garage were closed to the pits as testing is super secret stuff so we were getting a glimpse of something on the team members would normally see. Mechanics and engineers fussed over the car, an assistant strapped Dan in, attached the padded headrest around him, put the steering wheel on then the car was started.
On cue, the doors were opened and the car took off. No photos are allowed in the garage.
We then watched from pit lane as cars came and went.
I decided to take part in the signing session where Daniel signed an array of items for Red Bull guests just behind the garage. It was a bunfight as punters clamoured to get a signature and a selfie. I asked him to sign a Lancelin Pirates football jumper which the club will auction as a fundraiser. I did mention that his school mate Curtis Redell played for the club and got a smile from the convivial Aussie
The afternoon was spent on the first 3 corners of the track. Standing just behind the safety fence was amazing. You are so close to the vehicles and often I found myself thinking if that car speared off towards me, I’d have slim chance of surviving an injury as sometimes there was only a set of tyres and an armco barrier between a wayward vehicle and me. I experimented with slow shutter speed shots and different positions, nabbing a few keepers and learning quickly.
Off to the track again today and despite a healthy blister on my left foot, will try a few more corners in the hope of capturing a cracker of a shot.
Thus far, I’m loving the experience, thank you Matteo Bonciani, Head of Media at FIA.