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I very nearly got cleaned up by Bottas’ Mercedes Benz this afternoon.  It was quite hairy and I’ll tell you the whole story later in this blog.

First up, I arrived a little earlier today and went out to the main vehicle entrance and found a number of colourfully dressed fans. These people are passionate.  Every passing car with anyone inside wearing a logoed shirt was greeted with an enthusiastic wave.  And when an F1 driver was in one of those cars, like Daniel Ricciardo in this snazzy machine, they’d just go wild.The traffic police also performed their tasks with typical Japanese efficiency and flare.  Looking at them, I was reminded of WH Auden’s great poem, Funeral Blue (featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral) which contains the line, “Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.”  Of course, these guys were wearing white. At 10am I met up with Akio Kouketsu who kindly offered me not one, but 3 of his life-size Red Bull anime illustrations, one of which is featured below.  I met him Thursday and was wowed by the works of art and after chatting with him on line, he offered them to me. Being an avid anime collector I jumped at the offer.

You may remember I mentioned in Thursday’s blog that he was disappointed he’d missed the zipper detail on the skirt.  Well, he revisited the artwork and you can now see above that he’s included that detail.  And later in the afternoon he offered me another 5 life-size prints of other F1 characters!  Getting them back to Perth offers a couple of challenges, but they are not insurmountable and they will look super in my my new photo studio.

Back in the Paddock I ran into this bizarrely dressed young Force India fan.  It’s not often we see this type of fan in the Paddock so she attracted a bit of attention and ended up as a headline pic for one of the stories on F1.com.

Car-racing-wise it was out to the exit of Spoon for the final 60 minute practice session. I took the bus, along with 40 other tabard-wearing photographers for a ride around the track stopping at all corners about 30 minutes prior to the session or race start.Only 3 of us got off at the exit of Spoon and we were there for the entire session as there is no way to move around the track from that spot. The cars come at you down the decline and often mount the red and white striped kerbing.  When they do, it is loud, very loud, and you can feel the vibrations.  I started by ascending some stairs with large spider webs across it (I used one of the marshal’s brooms to get rid of them before heading up) and shot wide and tight from the top for the first 10 minutes.Then I went down to ground level,  standing with my back against the white painted armco (below) and protected by 5mm of coreflute Rolex signage, one set of tyres and the Arcmo barrier that comes up to waist height. Two other photographers were shooting from behind the white armco above me. I decided to change cameras about 20 minutes into the session and as luck (bad) would have it, just as I was moving back to my spot, I was faced with the sight of Valtteri Bottas, 40m from me, on the wrong side of the kerbing and heading at me at speed.  It would have made a great pic but I simply didn’t have my camera to my eye and figuring he was going to career straight into the fence in front of me, I hit the deck.  Thankfully, about 20 metres from the fence he managed to steer back towards the track, passing within a metre or so of where I was standing (well kneeling by that stage).  I turned to follow him and saw him brush the fence 150m past me and managed to snap just a few frames, not terribly sharp.It was the hairiest moment of my short F1 career. You can see the vision from Bottas’ car HERE. And this is a screen shot from the vision.The marshals were out on track quickly to repair the damage though. Following that close-call, I decided to move up to the higher (and safer) level for the rest of the sesssion. I liked this shot of Romain Grosjean checking his mirror as he passed me.Back in the media centre there was time for a bite and in true Japanese style, the lunches were elegantly presented and tasty. For qualifying, I went up in the ferris wheel with my son to shoot from a high vantage point.  The wheel takes 12 minutes to go around so I could shoot for about 8 minutes. I gave one of my cameras to Jayce and he snapped a few shots including the two below. For part two of qualifying I moved to the stand at the start of the start/finish straight and shot some panning shots at slow speed. The final section of qualifying saw me at the top of the grandstand in front of the podium where I once again incorporated the crowd. It was evident even from 400m away, that some of the cars were sparking big time down the straight and around turn 1, the Red Bulls in particular.I needed a few more cracks at a shot like this to get the car sharp but the sparks certainly looked nice and tomorrow during the race I will end up there for 10 minutes or so to see if I can snare some close up shots.  From the same spot I tried some pan shots. In the end, it will be Lewis Hamilton who will be starting from this spot on the grid tomorrow,`after he beat Bottas and Vettel.But Bottas has a grid penalty that will result in Ricciardo starting from 3rd instead of 4th.

My final assignment for the day was the post-qualifying press conference and this one was a dull affair I’m afraid.Tomorrow’s 15th GP of the season kicks off at 2pm local time and it’s going to be sunny.  The next race is in Austin, Texas and I was thrilled to learn today that Michael Buffer of “Let’s get ready to rumble” fame will be doing the driver introductions so that’ll prove colourful no doubt.
Thanks, that’s all for now.