Landing into KL at 8am yesterday I popped out to the circuit in the afternoon to have a scout around. I was prepared for savagely hot with high humidity and was thrilled to experience a mild afternoon (by local standards), with a breeze and a bit happening. The Bangladeshi workers were pulling weeds out by hand. The emergency services crews were running through some extraction drills. There were more than a hundred wooden blocks scattered along the length of the straight. I’d like to tell you why but no one I saw could shed any light on the situation.And there was plenty of painting of drains and kerbs to ensure the circuit looks super on TV and in pictures. I was impressed with the media centre too. It is positioned right above the pits so we can shoot through glass as the cars come in for pit stops.On the front wall is a 2m x 1m print featuring pics of many of the photographers that I’ve got to know throughout the season. I printed it in Perth and stuck it to the wall on Wednesday afternoon: it resulted in quite a bit of chat from those featured.
The Sepang circuit is impressive with a tree lined Paddock, so I started there this morning shooting the comings and goings starting off with Carlos Sainz.Pascal Wehrlein’s hair (above) always looks slick first thing in the morning as does Marcus Ericsson’s (below).With these shots I’m mindful of putting a neutral background behind the subject so you (the viewer) is not distracted by background clutter, although that is not always possible. Instead of walking down the main thoroughfare in the Paddock, Sebastian Vettel took the sneaky route behind the hospitality suites, entering through the kitchen, so I raced ahead to capture him coming towards me. This race sees rookie driver Pierre Gasly have his first drive in F1 in the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat. There was much interest in the young Frenchman so I waited outside the Toro Rosse suite and within 10 minutes he emerged, walking towards me and looking straight down the lens. This is not unusual for new drivers I’m told, after a hundred or so races will he be so engaging with the media? Who knows, but he will be reveling in his first race drive this weekend.I headed out on the track to photograph the drivers on their track walks around 10.30am. As I walked back to the pits I came upon two Mercedes sports cars on the track and then spotted Valtteri Bottas heading from the Mercedes garage out the track with his helmet. There were only two TV cameramen and me on hand to document this happening, which is rare. He climbed into the white Merc and awaited his passengers.About 5 minutes later a smiling Lewis Hamilton emerged from the pits en route to the black car. He got into the car and put his helmet on.I noticed later while editing that he had a peel-off piece of plastic over the visor which was removed before he took off on the first of 6 hotlaps with 6 different passengers.When he returned from the last drive, he delighted his passenger and the now many photographers and cameramen, by doing some burnouts on the track.It was sweaty work out there as can be seen on Alexandre Molina’s (Podium man) back as he oversaw the event. The most interesting passenger was this young woman who had the smallest waist of any woman I can recall. The first Thursday press conference saw the three drivers involved in the spectacular crash 10 days ago in Singapore front the media. While the journos may well have been hopeful of some angst between the 3 combatants, it turned out to be a jovial affair with much smiling and conviviality.The funniest moment came from the very dry Kimi Raikonnen when he was asked, “What will you miss from Malaysia next year?” (this is the last time they will race here). His response was truthful and blunt, very “Kimi”, “To be honest, I don’t know if we’re going to miss it. It’s a nice circuit but the only thing you see is the airport, the hotel next to the airport and the circuit, so you can choose from that what you’re going to miss.” to which the whole room exploded with laughter.
After that the second press conference featured the rookie Pierre Gasly who handled himself with great aplomb.Late in the afternoon I went down to the Paddock where there were plenty of media interviews with drivers and team bosses. As I had 3 oval pillows printed in the US with a different drivers’ face on each one I went looking for a few woman to stage a shot with a couple of the pillows in between their heads. There was no autograph session today and as a result there were few people in the pits and only a couple of women, one of them Jasmin Frost from Singapore. I took the shot above first and then she spotted Valtteri Bottas in the garage. She boldly got his attention and Valtteri was more than happy to come out and meet the Singapore beauty, posing for a selfie. I then mentioned to him that I had some pillows printed in the US, one featuring his face, and suggested it would make for an interesting pic. He was happy enough for me to come back with it, which I did. Jasmin only had to wave it at him when I gave it to her and he was over again quick smart. He looked at it with some wonder initially noting, “It looks like my dad, it’s got no hair.” Anyway, as I thought, the shot ended up on F1.com because you just don’t come across that sort of thing too often in the pits; oh, and I still have a Lewis and a Fernando pillow to use.
Tomorrow sees the cars on track in two 90 minute practice sessions so check back tomorrow for pics of them going fast and remember you can own any image of mine by ordering them here – https://www.kymillman.com/product/fine-art-prints/