At the end of every season I choose a representative image from each Grand Prix I attended, all taken from the cheapest of general admission areas and hopefully something that captures the nature of the particular circuit or its ambience as well as being original.
The general admission area at Baku runs alongside the 2.2 km final curving stretch of track, spectacular for its proximity to the cars at this very fast section. Although there were plenty of good street racing images to be had, the scene that particularly appealed to me was that of two girls/young ladies standing against the fence watching the action during Saturday practice. What attracted my attention was that they did not look like your average general-admission-race-fan. They were dressed too smartly and I assumed they were either visiting, or workers at one of the several businesses situated inside the circuit – restaurants, hotels and shopping malls – pausing on their way to work or whilst taking a break watching a Force India approach at some 360 kph. A true street racing scene.
For race-day only at Silverstone I had no pre-conceived idea of what image I wanted. Finding a spot with a view of the track is challenging enough. However, toward the end of the race I made my way towards Club Corner (the final bend) so as to make a quick exit to the car park. Many people must have already made an early exit or be queuing up at the gates ready for the post-race track invasion so I was able to get right up to the fence just about opposite the podium. Here, from a low track-level vantage point I took a photograph of race winner Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari head-on exiting Club Corner for the last time only metres from the finish line and about to take the chequered flag. The crowd and their flags makes a colourful backdrop but what is interesting is that the spectators and photographers are not looking at Vettel, they are looking back down the track waiting for the second place man, Lewis Hamilton, to appear after his storming drive from last place following his collision at the start of the race.
A race-day only visit to Spa poses much the same problem as Silverstone but the excessive crowds (most of the population of the Netherlands by appearance) make it all but impossible to move around, let alone get a view. However, I did have a clear idea of the picture I wanted and exactly from where I would take it. When I first started watching motor-racing, Spa was fully public roads. When it was re-opened in its shorter guise still two thirds of it used public roads but it has since become a totally closed, dedicated race-track. I wanted to try to capture some of its original public road character by choosing a spot up in the woods near Blanchimont looking down on the section of track that used to be the road from Stavelot to Françorchamps. It is a fairly remote part of the circuit as there is no public address, nor giant screen, but I included some spectators in the foreground standing amongst the trees clad in their Spa wet-weather gear for atmosphere. Although the track has clear evidence of a modern-day circuit with painted crash barriers and run-off areas it still retains something of a public highway as Pierre Gasly’s Toro Tosso flashes by the overhanging trees and trackside buildings.
The general admission area at Suzuka is so unspoilt and under-developed if offers many scenic views of cars in natural surroundings, but there is one section that is unique to the Suzuka circuit and that is its crossover. I was surprised and pleased to find that general admission afforded an excellent view of it and from high up actually looking down on both sections of track. Getting the ideal photograph though of one car over another was not quite so easy. The cars on the lower section of track only came into view as they appeared under the crossover. You could not hear or see them approaching behind the bridge parapet. Also, it was so gloomy under the bridge that the car needed to be in the light, just exiting. The crossover section on top is part of the very fast ‘West Stretch’ and i needed the car to be right over the track below at the same time a car was exiting the bridge beneath. The timing had to exact, it is amazing how quickly an F1 car at full speed can travel in a fraction of a second. Eventually, and after about forty-five minutes I got the image I wanted. In truth it is not the most scenic part of track but unmistakably Suzuka.
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.