The first time at any Formula 1 Grand Prix is an exciting time. But supposing you weren’t just there to watch it: you were there to shoot it…[Not a valid template]
Six months ago I was lucky enough to receive the Renault Motorsports Association Young Photographer of the Year Award. I was very honoured, not least because this particular accolade opens a lot of doors for its recipients.
Fast-forward four months and here I am, standing on pitroad at Silverstone about to shoot the 2013 Santander British Grand Prix. The grandstands are packed, the British banners are flying, and legion after legion of motorsport royalty are screaming past me, buzzing off their pitlane speed limiters.
This… is…. awesome!
The weekend kicks off on Thursday. There are technical checks for mechanics to conduct, finishing touches to be made to both garage setup and team villages, and a press conference for the media to attend. This year’s hot topic of debate concerned Mark Webber’s decision to leave Formula 1 at the end of the season to re-ignite his career in sportscars with Porsche. Neither Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) nor local boys Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Paul di Resta (Force India) and Jenson Button (McLaren) and Max Chilton (Marussia) attracted much attention as the likeable Aussie is grilled relentlessly by the media.
On Friday I arrive early – these 5am starts are stating to hurt – and am greeted by the sound of GP3 cars firing into life. A quick wander down pitlane demonstrates just how nurturing F1 teams are when it comes to future talent. It’s difficult not to look at the vast GP2 and GP3 feeder series grids and wonder who amongst them will be future F1 world champions. Over the course of the weekend, Jack Harvey and Sam Bird commemorated their home Grand Prix by taking the GP3 and GP2 Feature race wins respectively, John Lancaster giving his home crowd further reason to celebrate with his first win GP2 win in the Sprint race on Sunday. Giovanni Venturi meanwhile flew the Italian colours with GP3 Sprint race honours. Tin top fans also enjoyed Sean Edwards’ battles with eventual winner Nicki Thiim during the Porsche Supercup.
By Saturday – three practice sessions in the bag – the British crowd is ready for F1 qualifying, my favourite time of the weekend. I love shooting images from the spectator areas, since it injects an energy you just don’t get from head-on shots. It’s difficult not to get drawn in by the emotion of the crowd, which would be some 120,000-strong for race day. Each is adorned in their favourite team’s colours, with a folding chair and a packed lunch gripped tightly. I decide my best position for shots is the vast spectator banking just after Stowe, to catch the cars as they scream over the crest into Vale. It’s a massively charged environment and yet surreal at the same time, with half the spectators watching footage on the huge screen nearby and the remaining half watching the action as it develops on-track. Roars and cries went up as first Jenson saved himself from Q1 elimination and Lewis grabbed his second pole position for Mercedes.