Well, there were more than a few surprises in the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix, not the least of which was Ferrari’s poor showing.
The day kicked off with an hour of hectic snapping at the Fanzone where most of the drivers showed up to sign autographs. There was a good crowd of enthusiastic punters on hand to greet the drivers on stage, and first to arrive were the Red Bull drivers Daniel and Max. I noted while reviewing my pics that Daniel signs his name with an unusual grasp on the pen. Drivers from the other teams arrived shortly thereafter. Lewis Hamilton arrived to much applause and after signing autographs on stage, went down to the crowd. I did note he had a new piece of jewelery I’d not seen prior, the gold angel.I asked rookie Pierre Gasly if he’d give me a thumbs up; he happily complied and the pic was used as the headline shot of F1.com’s Gallery of the Day.After that group left, the Renault drivers and half of the Force India drivers arrived but Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were no shows.I had a laugh with Jolyon Palmer about a comment from the young woman above who said, “you know, you’re not as bad a driver as most people say you are.” a sort-of backhanded compliment. I thought the pic below of the back of Valtteri Bottas’ head was my best of the Fanzone shots.There were a number of folks dressed to stand out including these guys and this young woman in a pink panther costume. Her outfit was a little more sophisticated than that of the 3 Pink Panthers who turned up at Monza.Anyway, Estaban Ocon from Force India, the team with the bright pink cars, happily posed for a pic with her on stage.
The woman below had done an impressive job stitching a likeness of Sebastian Vettel, but as he failed to show, she missed out on getting it to him.It was good to see people using the swimming pool that the organizers had set up in the Fanzone, I certainly wish I could’ve had a dip as I was as wet as those below were, but not from cool pool water, just the stifling humidity.After hiking back to the Media Centre and editing for a bit, the dark clouds rolled in and it bucketed down for 15 minutes or so.Thankfully it stopped in time for the Sunday drivers’ parade where I and 80 other photographers took a plethora of photos, here’s one.The grid girls were turned out in Peteronas’ corporate colours and being a muslim country, the outfits were understated and proper, the direct opposite of what I have been told the outfits are at the US GP.On the way out to turn 1 I walked through the pits and learnt something new, Daniel wears a mouthguard when he races. I was talking to Romain Grosjean about this on the train into Tokyo this morning and he said it is to stop the teeth banging together in the cars given it’s such a bone jarring ride. The start of the race saw me at turn 1 at ground level. Over the ensuing 15 laps there was plenty of overtaking at corner 1 which resulted in some nice pics of cars two abreast around the 200 degree corner. Here’s Max taking the lead from Lewis Hamilton, and Daniel taking taking third from Valtteri Bottas. I was in the process of switching lenses when Estaban Ocon came together with another car, resulting in him ending up facing the wrong direction.This lone photographer against the video screen grabbed my attention.I shot from turns 1 and 2 for 35 of the 56 laps. and when I realized that the shuttle vans were not rotating around the service road as often as they should’ve been, I realized I had to walk back. It was a 13 minute brisk walk to get back to parc ferme in time to get swap lenses in the media centre and head down to the corridor where we are required to queue for parc ferme.
Once Max Verstappen had passed the finish line (he won the race from Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo), the gates were opened and the sprint for the best spots was on.
I scored a much better position on the fence than in Singapore but was hampered by the TV cameraman for the all important getting-out-of-the-car shot and the hugging-the-team shot. Sebastian Vettel, who started in last position and very nearly pipped Daniel Ricciardo for third in the closing laps, was the last to arrive back as Lance Stroll cleaned him up after the chequered flag on the warm down lap resulting in his car not being able to return to parc ferme under its own steam. He had to catch a lift back on the side pod of one of the Saubers, a sad end to a poor day for Ferrari (Kimi Raikkonen’s car conked out on the starting grid).Valtteri Bottas looks like he’s modeling a racesuit on a catwalk here.
Max bounded onto the podium and after the national anthems, there was the champagne spraying, followed by interviews. While Lewis and Max were being interviewed, Daniel was winding up the crowd to do the Mexican wave which the crowd responded to.I thought that was to be my final photo for the day, however, Red Bull did their celebration in the pits just below the media centre. I took a 16-35mm lens and went to the window. Thankfully Mark Thompson from Getty Images (the crotchety old codger to the left of Max) persuaded Max to turn around and look up at us resulting in the feature pic for today’s blog.And to top a great day off, when I sat down on the Jal flight to Tokyo, I had Daniel Ricciardo directly behind me, Romain Grosjean directly in front and Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Max Verstappen and Stoffel Vandoorne around me in business class. I must say though, that upon arrival in Tokyo I followed Fernando out into the arrivals hall where he we swamped by Japanese fans. He had no minder so had to run the gauntlet on his own and it wasn’t very pleasant for him.
It’s off to Suzuka on Thursday, a track I’ve visited once before and am looking forward to re-visiting.