The news from day one of the French Grand Prix was that Lewis Hamilton ended up quickest, with Daniel Ricciardo not far behind, but the bigger news for me was the disastrous start to my day. The drive from Sanary Sur Mer to the track is normally 35 minutes. I expected bad traffic so I left 4 and a half hours before the first session expecting it to take an hour. I got 15 minutes towards the track with no traffic problems and realised I’d left a camera at my hotel. Fifteen minutes later I was back there, collected the camera and headed off again. This time though, I encountered much heavier traffic. It took me 60 minutes to get 15 kilometres before I realised I’d left my media pass back in the room.
I turned around and 30 minutes later I had the pass and set off from the hotel for the 3rd time. This time though the traffic was banked back a long way, in fact we had come to a standstill on the freeway. It took 40 minutes to move 800 metres before I was able to access the F1 Lane (an absolute godsend for those working at the track) and arrived 2 hours prior to the session starting.
However, many of the spectators and those F1 people without a yellow “F1 Lane” sticker were stuck for 3+ hours. There are only a couple of single lane roads in and out and traffic converges from several directions so it’s little wonder it’s a nightmare.
I feared I wouldn’t make it in time for FP1 but in the end I was able to shoot some of the drivers arriving into the paddock.
Of course, avoiding TV cameramen is a tough grind. They are compelled to get their lenses right into the faces of the drivers. Nico Hulkenberg had a crack at one of them recently asking, “Do you really need to be that close? That’s ridiculous.” I concur.
There are shuttle buses that run around the outside of the track so I headed to the top of the track for FP1 and shot for the first 45 minutes, first from the grand stand where I tried slow (below) and fast (below below) shutter speeds.And then I moved back down to the fence, however, some bastard had cable tied the gate shut the gate I used to enter the grand stand area so to avoid a very lengthy walk, I had to do some minor digging work so I could slide under the fence on my back and shoot the same shot but from ground level. We get to stand in some great spots and at this track there is very little wire fencing to contend with.I moved a kilometre along the track to shoot the cars coming through the chicane with the red and blue stripes making for interesting shots.Marcus Erricson ploughed his Sauber into the wall late in the session and the thing ended up on fire but that was over a kilometre from me so you’ll have to search photos of that elsewhere.
Lunch was a marvelous feed in the Red Bull hospitality suite. That was followed by an hour of editing and then it was off to the pits where for my first time, I got to shoot from the pit wall. We normally have to shoot from the other side so I was happy to get shots I’ve not snared before. Can you guess what’s under the black cover?Of course there were the obligatory shots of the drivers getting into/out of their cars and the tight shots of drivers’ eyes when their visors are up.Tomorrow should prove interesting, especially the drive into the track for the paying public. The organisers are saying their taking measures to ease the congestion but I don’t hold much hope that they can do too much. I let you know how that goes in tomorrow’s blog. Cheers.