In a surprise twist, Lewis Hamilton found plenty of speed to take pole in Saturday’s qualifying session while Sebastian Vettel lost all of his power with an engine problem and will start from the back of the grid in the final Malaysian GP.
The start of day 3 saw all of the team mechanics lining up at the Paddock entrance waiting for the clock to tick over to 11am. There is a curfew on Saturdays to stop teams staying all Friday night and working on cars although the Haas mechanics were exempted after Romain Grosjean’s car ended up in the tyre barrier in Friday’s second practice session through no fault of his own. His tyre was shredded by a drainage grate that came loose, so his team was allowed to stay overnight to repair the car.
The first hour of my day was spent at the Fanzone where a large crowd had gathered to see drivers from the Red Bull, Mercedes, Force India, Ferrari and Williams teams on stage being interviewed. While standing in the moat in front of the stage I did notice an interesting detail. Sebastian Vettel ties his shoe laces in the conventional manner (below),but have a look at the knot Kimi uses (below), I’ve not seen that before.The tall (by F1 standards) Frenchman Estaban Ocon sported the biggest smile I’ve seen from him this season. Lance Stroll made a funny face. Backstage Daniel Ricciardo was eager to meet the fans. And one fan was showing her allegiance by waving the kangaroo. Max Verstappen turned 20 yesterday and the large crowd sang him happy birthday while he was on stage.And there was even a swimming pool in the Fanzone, but no one was in it at noon when I shot this; surprising because it was certainly hot enough for a dip.I walked back to the media centre through the crowd, it was the first time I’d been out among the public for a few races and if it was not such a grind getting out to the public areas (and we had more time over race weekends), I’d do it more often as there are plenty of pics to be found there. Time was of the essence though, so there was no stopping en route to the Paddock.
For the final practice session I went to the last corner and headed to the top of the stand below where I stood with the general public to photograph the cars round the 180degree bend.
Here you can shoot various parts of the track and using a long lens I shot the cars between turns 6 and 7, some 300metres away and only realised when I got back to the media centre to edit, that the Ferraris were sparking on a couple of sections of that run.I lasted 33 minutes there and then walked back to the second level of the stand just forward of the finish line and shot from the VIP area which had zero VIPs in it, allowing me to move about in the area to gather a variety of shots. Shooting with long lens across the track allows me to capture action in the pits too. It’s a great spot as there is plenty to see and no moving about involved.It had remained dry all day although I was hoping for rain so I could emulate a shot that Getty pro Clive Mason had taken yesterday featuring cars coming out of turn 4 and cresting with a ball of spray behind them in. Alas, I had to settle for cresting without spray ball in the late afternoon qualifying session. It’s a lovely background and identifies the circuit as being Sepang to anyone who’s studied each track. Here I was shooting the cars coming towards me with just 1 row of tyres and the armco barrier between us as can be seen below. Using a wide angle lens, 16-35mm, I turned 150 degrees and incorporated the clouds and then noticed a few cars were sparking on the corner. The final sector of Qualifying is the most exciting but few of us photographers get to photograph it around the track as almost everyone is en route to the pits to capture the field returning. I chose to get a spot on the fencing to grab the shot of the top 3 qualifiers standing in front of the too-small FIA backdrop, acknowledging the crowd and shots of the remaining drivers heading out to the TV interview pen. The top 3 qualifiers then faced the media in the press conference room which is positioned at the front of our media centre and accessed by the brown door on the far right of the pic below. A live feed is directed to all of the TV screens in the room.Using a 500mm lens it’s possible to get some very tight head shots of the F1 stars. After the sun had set, I learnt that 4 Melbourne teenagers had beaten 51 other teams from 26 countries in a program called F1InSchools. It was a competition that had them running an imaginary F1 team, focusing on all areas of the sport from sourcing sponsorship to winning a world championship and these 4 Melbourne boys were victorious which led to Daniel Ricciardo popping out to pose for a photo with them doing a ‘shoeie”.From there, I went directly to the centre of the Paddock where Mercedes sponsor, Petronas, had thrown on a lavish BBQ where F1 CEO Chase Carey spoke (eloquently and succinctly as usual). Over the race weekend there are a variety of cars that race at the track. The FIA Formula 4 SEA category features drivers as young as 15, racing open wheelers. The cars are identical which normally means the best driver wins unlike F1 where the most money wins. The final F4 race was bizarre as the engineer responsible for putting the same level of fuel in each car got it wrong, badly wrong. He put too little fuel in, resulting in all of the cars running out of fuel a few laps short of the end of the race.
I was watching in the media centre and thought it odd when I spotted a driver getting out and pushing his car, and then they switched to vision of all of the cars which were stopped on the track. The stewards eventually declared the leader at the time, Singaporean Daniel Frost, as the race winner. Here he is giving his mum a kiss at the Petronas BBQ, and if you have been reading my blogs this weekend you might recognise her as the woman in the pic below from Thursday, Jasmin Frost.With any luck, her amiable 15 year old son could end up in an F1 car in years to come and good luck to him.
I always look to F1.com to see what images of mine they’ve chosen as it’s a good gauge as to how I’ve gone that day. Some days I get less than my fair share (there are 5 of us shooting for F1.com this weekend), others more, but yesterday was one of the best days with some 28 of the 65 pics they featured in the “Best Of” gallery mine and 5 of the 10 headline pics below mine too.
I now have to pack as I’m heading off to Japan straight after the race but thanks for reading and remember you can own photo paper of canvas prints of any of my pics by clicking here – https://www.kymillman.com/product/fine-art-prints/