Monaco turned on a cracker of a day for the 2017 F1 Grand Prix and no one was happier than F1 winner, Sebastian Vettel. Despite qualifying second on a track where it is nearly impossible to pass anyone, he improved a place to pip Kimi Raikkonen for the win with Daniel Ricciardo a happy third. When I entered the Media Centre, I spotted a notice posted by the Red Bull PR people about a photo opportunity with Chris Hemsworth at 10.40am in their garage. When I arrived, there were about 20 photographers in position. When Chris arrived, he had another 5 people in tow.
While the gathered throng snapped away, there was much talk about who the others were. It took a while and some research back in the Media Centre to work out all but one of them They are from left to right, unkown man, NY graffiti artist Alec Monopoly, Tag Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biever, fashion blogger Chiara Ferragni, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner, driver Max Verstappen, Hollywood actor Chris Hemsworth and chef Phillipe Etchebest.
A number of photographers thought Alec was Justin Bieber, and with that Louis Vuitton scarf covering his face, it could have been.
The crowd on the hill was huge today, I imagine it would have been nearly impossible to move around up there given the steepness of the terrain and again, my mate Billy Hill was back on the megaphone entertaining the drivers, celebrities and the crowd. Jackie Stewart was in the paddock looking dapper and actually smiled and waved at me for this shot in nice light,The Red Bull Energy Station was packed with invited guests. It’s a massive structure that is built just down the coast in Italy and then floated into position. They had a motorbike rider doing stunts in this small area and a very talented footballer impressing the punters.
The Monaco grid girls were dressed in striking outfits. They were all tall and had been branded by Tag Heuer in an unusual fashion.
The drivers’ parade was a fair bun fight primarily because there was so little room to get the drivers on to the truck. Having it in such a tight confine meant that it was just uncomfortable for all. Anyway, after the drivers took off, I grabbed a media shuttle driven by an enthusiastic driver who sped past the truck and enabled me to get ahead of them to take this shot at the hairpin. I had arranged to get up on the roof of the iconic Fairmont Hotel where there were hundreds soaking up the sun around the pool overlooking the famous hairpin. I mounted a camera to the stand and set it to shoot wide while I remotely fired it with a trigger on top of my second camera which I used to shoot tight in the event of an accident. There wasn’t one.I was one of only a few photographers up there and this shot was my favourite as it shows nearly the whole field snaking around the corner. I shot around 120 images (at 14 frames a second on a 1DXMk2) as the field passed the first time and stayed there for a couple of laps before packing up my gear. I was just about to head downstairs when another highly respected photographer suggested there were some nice shots to be found over the other side of the rooftop. He was right. I have been most grateful to a range of photographers who’ve helped me over the first 6 races. Their support has enabled me to constantly improve my photography in quick time. It is very much about finding the right angle that shows not only the cars in their best light, but the location and you are never short of a great background or foreground in Monaco.
After I finished on the roof, I went down to shoot the cars coming towards me and around the hairpin. Standing so close to the barrier I found myself thinking how fortunate I am to be able to have this largely unfettered and up-close access to the track. If any of these cars lost their brakes or missed the corner, they’d have been into the barrier before I could have reacted.
From there I worked my way back to the finish line on foot over 60 minutes stopping at different spots.
Here I shot through the barrier again with a 100-400mm lens which results in the hazy effect top and bottom. At Casino Square I was less than a metre from the cars with no wire above the armco. It’s such a buzz being that close and more than a challenge panning with them so I used a wide angle, 11-24mm lens and a slow shutter speed to get some colourful images. Having worked my way back to the waiting area to gain access to the podium, a groggy-looking Pascal Wehrlein was walked through 40-odd photographers on his way to the medical centre after his car ended up on it’s side just before the entry to the tunnel.The photographers were then led out to the pit lane to wait for the cars to pass the finish line which Sebastian Vettel did first,and then we were all escorted onto the track where an army of marshals stood with their arms locked ,restricting us to a distance of 20m from the arriving top 3 cars. Unfortunately the TV cameramen get the best access and ruin plenty of shots but TV brings in the big bucks so that’s the deal. Then it was up to the podium where the champagne was uncorked and sprayed over the Ferrari crew below.
My week in Monaco has been sensational. What a marvelous event it was, full of colour, excitement and happy people. I stayed on a boat which was moored right up against the track (one of these below) and just 500m from the Media Centre. It was a great experience and I was thankful to Harry, Bec, Manu, Matt and Andre for keeping Tonya company while I was sweating behind a lens or toiling in front of the laptop.
I leave with terrific memories and eager to get to Canada for the race in 13 days time.