Friday, 15 July 2011

British Grand Prix!

It was a spur of the moment thing ... driving to work on Monday morning I thought about going to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on that Friday, practice day.  "Why not" I thought, after all I haven't been to a Grand Prix for many years.  So I checked the weather forecast and it wasn't good - rain all day.  A good omen I thought, after all, they usually get it completely wrong!  Onto the Silverstone website for a ticket - 50 quid, just for Friday! Ouch!  But hey, it's not every week is it ...
So, ticket ordered I watched with dismay as the forecast for Friday got worse ... and worse ... and worse.  Not just rain now - lightning and thunder.  OMG!  Still, I thought, there'll be breaks in the cloud - won't there?!

Friday arrives and I set off full of hope - and drive through the pouring rain.  I told my Wife before leaving not to be surprised if I'm home early - with the forecast for the rest of the weekend much better I doubted they'd even run in the rain not wanting to risk the cars.  However, as I arrived and parked the rain stopped and there's a glimmer of brightness trying to get through the clouds.

Then ensued the worse part of the day - getting in!  Only a few access gates were open for thousands of people to get into the circuit!  I expected it to be busy even though it was Friday, but I wasn't expecting this!  Just like a normal race day for any other event.  Frustration set in as, after 30 minutes of queueing, the first practice session gets underway and despite the weather there's a car running - and I'm missing it!

The Changing Face of Siverstone - Fans walk under the bridge
along the route of the 'old' circuit into the challenging Bridge Bend.
Finally I get through having only missed a few minutes (seemed a lot longer) and headed straight for the new grandstand opposite the Silverstone Wing at the exit of Club Corner onto the new pit straight (Friday tickets include roving grandstand!).  Despite being busy I found a few seats free on the second row so had a good view of the exit of Club with the cars running onto the kerb and astro turf just in front of me.
Rubens Barrichello - Williams

The light wasn't great so I had to crank up the ISO to 1000 to get a decent shutter speed shooting with my EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM, aiming for f/8 which is the sweet spot for this lens, which gave me about 1/500th.

Fernando Alonso - Ferrari

Shooting at 400m gave some reasonable images at the apex and exit of Club while at 100mm I could get the car and a bit of background right in front of me - just.  Boy, was my panning rusty!  I was all over the place.  Still it improved as the session went on.

Lewis Hamilton - McLaren Mercedes

Content with a few in the bag from that vantage point I left the grandstand and stood right on the exit of Club - at the end of the grandstand you get very close to the debris fence so able to shoot through with only a minimal loss of quality.  And you're now quite close to the level of the track so get nice side-on shots.

Paul di Resta - Force India

While here I got a few shots of Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber as he ran wide - too wide it turned out as he lost it on the astro turf and slammed into the tyre wall just out of sight.  OOPS!  Thankfully he was unhurt and the damage while it looked bad was easily repairable so he was out in the next session.

Kamui Kobayashi - Sauber F1

With Free Practice 1 over I wandered up to the grandstand opposite the McLaren pit area to get a few people-type shots, but due to the track rising and the pits being kept level, giving that tunnel-like exit, you couldn't see anything of these pits at all!  What a disappointment for the fans, most of whom were Button / Hamilton fans judging by the hats, banners, flags and so on.  This should have been done differently.

Lewis & Jensen Mania!

The GP2 practice was underway by this time and I watched as they exited the new pit straight through the new Abbey and into Farm, spitting fire as they throttled on for the curve.  Took me a few attempts but got a nice shot of the Coloni right on the apex (haven't a clue whose driving it!).

GP2 Action at the British Grand Prix

For the F1 Free Practice 2 I headed up to the Luffield Complex where the cars are going slower, so a bit easier to get sharp images, and you can shoot over the fence!  We watched as the Safety Car toured the circuit a few minutes before the start of the session - then the heavens opened.  It poured!  
The F1 Safety Car ensures the track is clear.
Shortly after this the track was deluged!

To be fair thunderstorms were predicted for 2:00pm so they were pretty well spot on with that forecast.  So, the hardened British fans sat, stood and bore the brunt of the weather waiting for the cars to show, which they duly did about 30 minutes into the session.
Only in Britain!  Diehard British fans sit and wait for Free Practice 2
to get underway during a downpour - stoic to the last!

First the Virgins then the Torro Rossos carefully splashed their way round - it made for some good photos though!
Timo Glock - Virgin Cosworth

Eventually the track was dry enough for everyone to get a few laps in, and to answer the photographer's prayers the clouds parted and we had some sunshine to give that extra bit of zing!  Fantastic!  Right in front of me was a group of press photographers shooting with some very nice equipment (me jealous? not much!).  It turns out one of them was shooting for the BBC Website as we must have pressed the button at the same instant to get a near identical photograph of Jaime Alguersuari in the Toro Rosso!

Jaime Alguersuari - Toro Ross

So all in all a good day I went home satisfied and enthused about F1 all over again (where shall I go next?  Spa?!!)

To see the full set of photographs from the day visit Flickr

A big 'Thank You' to 'Black_Lab' from Talk Photography forum who posted this information about taking photographs at the 'new' Silverstone which gave me the incentive to go