One of my pleasures in attending a Grand Prix is to come away with at least one photograph that captures the character and nature of the circuit armed with only the cheapest general admission ticket. Plenty of scope for first time visits to Sochi and Mexico City but a little more challenging for race-day only visits to Silverstone and Spa.
The general admission area at Sochi is the 360° concourse surrounding the Bolshoy Sports Palace giving views from turn 3 to turn 9. The race-track in large part winds between the various venues used for the Winter Olympics and in itself is not very photogenic, but it does provide a variety of interesting backdrops ranging from the Olympic venues themselves, notably the shimmering blue Ice Sports Palace, to the Black Sea coast on one side and the township of Adler on another.
The one unique and identifying feature of the actual race-track is its 180° turn 3 around the perimeter of the Olympic Central Square and this was my chosen shot. From the general admission area there is a good view of the exit of this turn complete with Daniil Kvyat portrait looming over it from the side of the grandstand bearing his name. I took an image on the first lap of the race using a fast shutter speed to freeze the line of cars exiting the turn and also used a wide angle lens so as to include the background of mountains and colourful flags of the Nations alongside the track.
Finding a new perspective for my fortieth-plus visit to Silverstone, particularly with the additional limitations of race-day only access, was not as difficult as I had feared. My pre-determined viewing spot from the grass banking for the road bridge that crosses the Wellington Straight provided the shot I wanted giving an elevated view of the cars exiting ‘Aintree’ bend and heading down the straight.
Again, taking the image on the first lap I used a fast shutter speed and a wide angle lens to make the image a view rather than an action shot. Although the Wellington Straight is a new section of track it is classic Silverstone with all of the circuit’s identifying features – a flat and wide track flanked by extensive grass and concrete run-off areas and in the background a trademark Silverstone low-profile scaffolding pole, plastic sheet covered grandstand.
Thanks to the ‘Max-factor’ the race-day crowd at Spa was huge and access to many of the popular general admission areas was impossible. I had no idea what to photograph but decided to start at the top of the hill at Les Combes (where I had photographed the cars on their grid formation laps) and walk down towards Raidillon and Eau Rouge. When the race started I was about halfway down the Kemmel Straight and although close to the track could not see the cars as they went by due to the density of the crowd. But as I approached the bottom of the straight at the exit of Raidillon suddenly the perfect photo opportunity appeared. There was a section of track visible between the overhanging trees and bushes which are very dense at that spot where the cars flash by, visible for a brief second. Because the viewing is limited there were no spectators. I knew as the race was only a few laps old that the first car would be Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and the second Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari. Panning was not possible so with a shutter speed set to show a bit of movement blur in the passing car and a wide angle to include the bushes and trees flanking the visible section of track, camera pressed against the fence and set on single shot mode (I do not have burst or multi-shot) it was just a question of pressing the shutter at the correct moment. Although it was a hot sunny day the canopy of trees set a dark, gloomy, almost foreboding scene and with no advertising boards or coloured kerbs in sight, the resulting image was classic Spa and could have been a scene from the 1960s or 70s. I included the trackside Marshals in the image to complete the scene.
For the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez the general admission area was in fact a numbered seat in a grandstand alongside the straight between turns 3 and 4. Although it was close to the track and the viewing good enough, it did not provide much in the way of interesting photographic opportunities. I thought my ‘character’ shot would have to come from the off-track entertainment by way of the costumes and face-painting of the ‘Dia de los Muertos’ celebrations. But when I reviewed the images on my computer there was one that appealed to me immediately as representative of the circuit’s ambience and tree-lined parkland setting all illuminated by the relatively low Autumnal sun. It showed a car (Magnussen’s Haas by chance) heading out from under the cover of the trees on a circuit bathed in sunshine and shadow and the steep sided grandstand looming over the track and approaching car.
Note: Many of these images are taken from original prints, negatives and slides that are nearly 40 years old and are therefore not reproduced to the same standard as current day digital images. All reasonable attempts have been made to ensure these images are reproduced to the best possible standard, however, in some instances colour casts and blemishes may be present.