There couldn’t be more of a difference between the Melbourne Grand Prix and the Shanghai event if today is anything to go by. The clear, sunny skies of Melbourne were replaced by grey, smoggy skies with rain in the afternoon.
I arrived at the track around 9.45am and checked into the media centre which is on the 9th floor of one of these towers and grabbed myself a locker and desk.
After that, I headed out on to the track, which unlike Melbourne, has no racing on the Thursday so some of the teams and drivers walk it to familiarise themselves with it.
I followed a number of the groups around and what was very noticeable, and you probably won’t pick it up on the TV broadcast, is just how steeply banked turn 13 is. There is a grandstand there but obviously they can’t sell it out so they cover it in impressively large signage.
There was a grandstand at turn 1 too but at some point they tore it down as it was not regarded as safe enough so there is the bizarre situation of no stand on the most important corner of the track.
The paddock area behind the Shanghai garages is vast and there were few people to fill it today save for the drivers and crew. Where there were probably 180 photographers in Melbourne, there were less than half that number here which made it a lot easier to get a shot.
There was a bit of last minute painting going on with the tarting up of the starting grid boxes and whitening up the drivers’ names in the pit lane, although the afternoon rain rendered the pit lane work a bit of a mess although as this pic shows it looked all fine just prior to the rain’s arrival.
After lunch, which is a substantial spread put on by the organizer, there was the regular pre-race press conference with 6 drivers.
What is noticeable is that each driver is normally accompanied by a media manager/assistant when they head to or from a press conference or sponsor commitment. Their job is to shield the driver from the public if they become too fervent and to move the driver on in interview; often playing the “bad cop”. Here Antonia Giovinazzi, the stand-in Sauber driver on loan from Ferrari, is shielded from the raid by his minder as he makes his way to the afternoon press conference.
There are two balconies on the 9th floor of the media centre building that provide sensational elevated views of the track. It’s just unfortunate there is so much smog resulting in hazy looking images but it is what it is. I’m not sure who this Ferrari team member is, he’s certainly not a driver, but it’s fair to say he’s the coolest looking guy in the paddock; a definite favourite amongst the ladies.
Afterwards it was back out in the pit lane looking for photo opportunities in light rain.
Of course I left all of my newly acquired wet weather gear (jacket, camera and bag covers etc.) back in the hotel room so I ended up damp but thankfully my Canon 1DX Mk2s are water resistant.
There was plenty of setting up going on in pit lane and in this shot you can see the level of cooling that is required to run the computers and screens that the teams utilize on the pit wall set up.
The lighting in the team garages is impressive and provides great opportunities to darken up the shot and get a moody-looking image; Red Bull is my favourite.
I was delighted during the week to tee up a deal with two popular F1 bloggers who will be using some of these images on their sites. Thanks to www.theformula1girl and www.formula1blog.com. Check them out, they’re interesting sites.
After the main televised press conferences, the various teams hold smaller ones at the rear of their garages. In marked contrast to Melbourne, Daniel Ricciardo’s was attended by just two TV crews, and Dan spoke Italian in both of those. In Melbourne he would have had 7 times that number itching to talk. Of course, he was his normal jovial self and charmed both interviewers and their audiences no doubt.
What was noticeable in Melbourne, was that Dan couldn’t go 10m without being hounded for a selfie whereas here, I only spotted him getting caught once.
What will make this GP tricky is the haze/smog although I’m not at all worried about the rain, in fact I think it provides an opportunity to get some smashing shots with big plumes of water emanating from the rear of the cars.
At this stage I’m not sure where I’ll shoot from but I understand there is a spot at the end of the starting straight heading into turn one where the cars sometimes spark, in particular the Red Bulls.
The shots from high up lend themselves to a tilt shift lens which makes the cars look like toys and given the huge run offs on many corners there’ll be lots of long lens shots. This shot was taken from the balcony of the media centre and clearly shows the haze/smog that pervades.
Anyway, that’s day one, a grey day, in Shanghai with day two holding plenty of promise with 2 x 90 min F1 practice sessions. Oh, and if you think that all F1 photographers use long lenses, you might be interested to meet Joshua Paul. Josh’s equipment is decidedly low tech and wide angled as you can see. Using this vintage camera, Josh’s images are recorded on a photographic plate for developing the old school way. And yes, this pic was not taken in Shanghai, the bright sunshine is a dead giveaway.