Photographing the British Grand Prix

It has always been an ambition of mine to photograph Formula One. It’s a sport that captures the hearts and souls of many fan, driver and even photographer. I have to admit, I didn’t quite realise I’d be photographing it quite so soon however…

I’d never been to a Formula One event, when I got into photography I always saw it as an ambition but not somewhere I needed to be at my early stages of my career. So this was a totally new experience with the cars, rock star-esque drivers and the huge crowds. I honestly couldn’t wait to get to the circuit and start.

To shoot a Formula One event is a massive privilege, more so when you are given the opportunity (provided by the MSA) to shadow, for a session, world class photographer Darren Heath. It was fascinating to talk to him about the way the sport worked and his approach to shooting. Definitely gave me food for thought as I headed into the rest of the weekend.

In terms of first impressions the atmosphere was something that hit me the hardest about the British Grand Prix, even on the Thursday thousands of fans were gathered along the International Pit straight to catch a glimpse of the drivers and cars. Come race day and the atmosphere was electric with 140,000 fans around the circuit. Hearing cheers, over the engines, as Lewis Hamilton carved his way back to the top was incredible. I’ve not ever heard this kind of support at an event before.

From a photography point of view it was great to see Silverstone so busy as well, with lots of bright colours filling the usually empty grand stands helped to make the event seem alive – and totally transformed the circuit.

Moving onto the cars, this was my first ever experience of them so I can’t really compare them to the days of old. All I can say is that these things corner like they are on rails – seeing them dance through the complex Maggotts & Becketts complex virtually flat out was a sight to behold as sparks flew from the underside of the car as it compressed throughout the corners. It was incredible.

Shooting F1 was an incredible experience and I hope that I’ll be back again in the not too distant future.

I’ll end this on one more note, I’ve typically thought that Formula One drivers were perhaps a little less human than normal. They hide away in their motor homes and you rarely see them outside of the car. This was until I was waiting for the driver parade to happen. All the drivers have to go through a door to get to the truck that then transports them around the circuit – I was waiting near the door to try and get as many shots as I could of the drivers coming through.

Nico Rosberg was running late. He ran down the back of the trucks towards the door – just as a small child approached him for an autograph. He apologised and ran through the door. The child turned away virtually in tears that Rosberg couldn’t sign his pass.

A few seconds later Rosberg reappeared from the door desperately trying to find the child. Once he’d found him Rosberg gave him a hug and signed the pass apologising for not coming out sooner and making sure he gave this fan some time to chat before being ushered into drivers parade. It was genuinely one of the highlights of the weekend seeing this boys day being made as he met his hero.

Maybe F1 drivers are human after all.

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