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Qualifying day at Sochi and Vettel landed the prized pole position from his team mate Kimi Raikkonen.  For me, it was a long day with many photos taken and lots of photography tricks learnt.

First up, they take security seriously here.  You’re scanned going into the adjacent train station and there are at least 30 scanning units going into the track where you need to show your cameras and laptops work by powering them up for the security staff. There is an expectation that Vladamir Putin will roll up at the track on race day.  He was here last year and presented the trophy and a couple of the photographers are preparing to set themselves up in certain spots at the end of the race for a clear shot (of the photographic variety) of him. He apparently watches the race from behind glass, coming out on the podium to present the trophies so that will be interesting, he’s quite the macho man.

I arrived just before 9am and as always, the team mechanics were waiting at the paddock entry as they can’t access the area until 9am due to a curfew. At exactly 9am, their passes become active and they can scan in.

I spent the first hour in the paddock where the Mercedes team was setting up for a TV interview and had these babushka dolls on display.I had a wander down pit lane where a couple of the teams were practicing pit stops and some of the Mercedes team were wearing highly reflective visors which make a good shot in the right light.For the 1 hour morning practice session it was down to the pits for me.  We are allowed to roam the length of the pit but can’t go any further out from the garages than the red line.  Sometimes you’re lucky and action happens right where you’re standing, at other times you need to observe what the other media are doing to get an inkling of what’s worthy of shooting. I love the view looking up the pit lane towards the hills.  It’s so different from most circuits with the houses in view obviously getting a great view of the starting straight.There are always opportunities in the pits to get shots of drivers without their cap or helmets on and Daniel Ricciardo was standing right at the front of the garage so he was a prime target.And then he has to lower himself into his car, adjusting all his bits and strapping himself in.
A couple of cars didn’t make it back into their garages under the own steam resulting in their drivers walking back along pit lane almost always followed by a TV camera and a few photographers.Of course it’s nice when the drivers have their visors up in the pits enabling you to see their eyes. In this pic of Lewis Hamilton you can see the jagged “windscreen” which grabbed my attention and a brief search of the web revealed little to enlighten me as to why it’s cut like that.At least two of the cars are sporting #Billy Whizz decals which is a fine gesture that will no doubt lead to more funds being raised for the young racer who had the horror crash recently in the UK and had both legs amputated.For the crucial  qualifying session I spent my time around the last two turns.  When I have my eye in the viewfinder awaiting a car to round a corner, I can clearly hear from the engine sound, if the car is on a hot lap and if so, I can expect the car to be positioned a little wider on the track on both the entry and exit of the corner and adjust my shot accordingly. I found a reflective shotand then shortly after I was lucky to be in the right spot when Max Verstappen overshot a corner and ended up on the blue painted tarmac.Great F1 photography is all about the light and when I saw just the chequered flag illuminated by the afternoon sun, I got a little excited and was well happy with the shot.
Of course, seeing a shot is the real challenge in this game and as each race goes I notice more and more things  like this reflection as the cars enter pit lane.In Bahrain I struck a deal with Sutton Images, one of the largest providers of F1 images, to provide them with shots from that and future events and at 6pm, principal Mark Sutton suggested I go and shoot the grid girls who were having a rehearsal for race day on the starting straight just below the media centre. Well, what a delightful group of excited, good looking  young Russian women they were.

I spent about 45 minutes with them and they were easily the most impressive group of grid girls out of the 4 races this year.  Their outfits were eye-catching and their enthusiasm was obvious.    The girl above is from Moscow and was certainly one of the liveliest of the bunch and is keen to do a couple of photos shoots around Moscow with me when I’m there next week.

The race starts today (Sunday) at 3pm local time and it will take place under clear blue skies.  Bring it on Sochi.