Stepping out of the hotel this morning I was greeted with darker than normal grey skies and rain, lots of it. I was as equally disappointed as I was excited because while the discomfort level rises, the resultant photographs can be much more interesting than normal if there’s enough rain to generate a big rooster tail of spray out of the back of the cars. And of course, one might spear off and hit something or at least kick up some dust.
What does surprise me about this event is that so few people outside of the track are aware it is on. Staying in the city (75mins by car), the hotel staff don’t even know what F1 is which is obviously one of the reasons so few will attend the event.
Ninety minutes before the first practice session and the paddock was largely deserted.
Yesterday I overheard a driver remark to his minder that the event is “soulless” and questioned how long it would remain on the calendar. Many of the long time photographers can’t wait to get to Bahrain where the weather will be warmer and the event, better supported.
Twenty minutes before the first practice run I took the media shuttle to turn 14, the mushrooms as they’re known as. It was cold (13degrees) but the rain had largely stopped by the time the cars came out at 10am and there was little spray to speak of but the Red Bulls and the Williams kicked up some sparks just prior to breaking for the hairpin but it was nothing like the shot of Max Verstappen that I got in Melbourne.
I tried various angles trying to get the pooled water sitting on top of some rubber matting on top of the concrete wall to provide a mirror effect. This was shot at 1/400th of a second so I could stop the car and yet still have the printing on the tyres blurred so it’s obviously not just parked there.
In comparison this was shot at 1/30th of a second.
About 30mins in, the session was stopped as visibility in Shanghai was too poor for the emergency helicopter to land.
The medical facilities at a grand prix are most impressive with a team of medical professionals on standby over the 4 days of the event.
Unfortunately visibility didn’t improve as the session wore on and that put an end to the track action until the afternoon session which was set down for 2pm.
Come 2pm, there were drivers in cars but the weather had not lifted in Shanghai so the pit lane remain closed and drivers just sat in their “offices” hoping for good news. After some time, the drivers emerged from their cars and wandered about pit lane.
However, it was Lewis Hamilton who got the crowd exciting, broadcasting live on one of his social media accounts by including the crowd in his broadcast.
They loved it and so he headed back into the garage to sign some caps and headed across the track with a group of Mercedes personnel to toss the caps into the crowd. There is no doubt, Lewis is the headline act in F1.
On a day when nothing was happening on track, the small crowd in the pit straight grandstand were looking for something to distract them and Sebastian Vettel obliged by crossing the pit lane and waving to them through the fence before having a chat with his crew and returning to the sanctity of the garage. Of course at all times, there is a TV camera and plenty of photographers following him.
What you can’t see in this pic, is a dozen or so media left and right of me capturing this “remarkable moment”. It’s fair to say that on a day like today, you have to look a bit harder for a shot, and often times it’s a matter of looking at the detail in order to capture a viewer’s attention.
Above you can see Max Verstappen’s brightly coloured customised racing boots complete with his car number. Daniel Ricciardo has customised racing boots too that feature his new clothing line logo.
Speaking of my fellow West Australian, he only did a couple of laps today so had plenty of energy for media commitments.
I was somewhat surprised to see that women reporters/presenters are plentiful in the pits, many of whom are certainly pleasing on the eye.
Around 5pm I heard the FIA was considering bringing forward the race to tomorrow given that Sunday looks like being as bad as today. It was suggested that a decision was being announced at 6pm local time but at 7.08pm, no word had been received.
And on a final note, I must say thanks to Daniel Bois from Grand Prix Events for booking me in the Red Bull suite at Abu Dhabi last year. It was that race that got me enthused about photographing F1 and 5 months later here I am in China sharing my thoughts and images with you. Here’s cheers to Daniel and his team.