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A hot and steamy day in Monza for the warm up to the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix.  I arrived yesterday having spent a couple of days in Milan and I must say you do see some interesting sights there.Today it was hot and steamy and in the morning I headed to the first chicane to photograph the drivers walking the track. And then it was back to the paddock to stalk drivers and team bosses. Above is Charles Leclerc who will someday score a drive in F1 if his form in F2 continues, and even at the age of 19, he very much looks the part of a champion.

Our media centre is pretty swish and is situated directly above the pits.  We can actually shoot through the glass at the action in pit lane BUT here, we have to lock up everything when we leave the centre.  This place has a horrible reputation for thefts so all gear must go into the locker when you head out to shoot.

The media canteen is a simple affair with bagged sandwiches and quick meals that can be heated up in the microwaves, but it’s close by and the food is OK and gratis.Late afternoon there was the fan autograph session, however, this one was quite different to most by virtue of the size of the crowd, who wore plenty of red in support of their home team, Ferrari.

. The Ferrari drivers emerged to sign autographs early in the session, which required the orange suit wearers to push the punters back to give the drivers room.    We could see from our vantage point in the media centre that things were pretty hectic.  Down closer to the action it was stifling hot and the smell of thousands of people pushing against each other was less than pleasant.  Of course this resulted in at least one person succumbing to the crush.  Thankfully the medical people were close at hand. The guys below caught the eye of the Force India team so they were plucked from the seething throng and allowed to hang around the front of the garage which was a much more appealing option to being crushed in that crowd in those hot suits, and what is the link with pink cats?

The day ended with a crazy go kart race on the main straight with Jackie Stewart there as part of his sponsorship arrangement with Heinekin, and the current voice of F1 David Croft (below) commenting.  There were 4 current F1 drivers (in order, Daniel Ricciardo, Estaban Ocon, Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen) and David Coulthard (below), racing 5 past football greats, none of whom an Australian like me had ever heard off, but it was good fun and a great chance to get close to the drivers and take some nice pics. Daniel Ricciardo is as close to a home town hero here given his Italian heritage.

Over the past 12.25 races (plus 4 days of testing pre-season in Barcelona) I’ve met most of the photographers who follow the F1 tour and they are the cream of the crop. I thought I’d introduce you to some of the better known professionals via my regular Thursday race blog and today I’ll start with two Englishmen.

The first is Clive Mason from Getty Images (below).Clive doesn’t do every race and he’ll openly tell you his passion is yachting photography, but he turns out some blindingly good F1 images like the one below when he’s at an F1 event, and he’s a pleasure to be around. “This was shot in torrential conditions in Shanghai.” explains Clive. “The media centre spans the width of the start/finish straight and has balconies and in those days, clear glass so there were many options for unique perspectives of the race.”

Clive was 9 storeys in the air and had to pan at the same speed the car was moving to keep it sharp. He’s a modest guy whose work speaks for itself and I look forward to catching up with amiable Brit in Singapore in a couple of weeks.

Another British photographer of note, and one with a sizable social media following, is Darren Heath. 

The Brit (above) has been photographing F1 for years and does so “in a creative and artistic manner, using natural light and colour to their maximum effect.”  Darren’s work is lavish and rich to the eye.  Often I see him in the one spot for a lot longer than most photographers would stay, not happy with a good shot, but waiting for the very best shot.  Here’s one of his favourites from Baku earlier this year. “Light, shadows, and not the obvious angle from which to shoot Lewis Hamilton climbing the Mercedes unit stair case. The shadowy figure looking up at the three times world champion significantly adds to the picture’s composition and – while I would never compare my work to his – reminds me of the work of the brilliant American photographer Saul Leiter.”

There endethed the first day of the 4-day Monza event.  Please SHARE this blog on your social media and if you haven’t subscribed, do so now so you receive notification when the blogs are up.

Ciao from Monza, Italy!