Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Spain.
Day 2 of week 2 (Weds. 7 March 2018)
Off to the Formula 1 testing and, like last year, happy I made the decision to go for the second week of testing. My rationale being if there is a lack of track time due to problems with cars then this is likely to happen in the first week. Doubly vindicated this time because this year the first week was blighted by rain and snow.
Angles and proximity
Applied for a media pass but not granted one. Applications can be made to track organizers for individual F1 races but the testing application is processed by the FIA and they “do not grant photographer passes to websites”. I need to be commissioned by a media organization or publication to stand a chance (Any offers available??). The problem for me is it can be difficult to get the shots I would like without being trackside; it’s all to do with angles and proximity. But, resourceful I can be and will be. Having been to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya a few times I have a fairly good idea of how I can get what I want.
What’s new this year? Well, obviously the ‘halo’. I’m not a great fan and I’m waiting to see how I feel about it once seen in the flesh. I expect, given some time, it will be accepted as the norm, but I feel it may be an indicator of the troublesome future that F1 faces. We could be witnessing the beginning of an end of an era. The nature of the future series may well change or come to an end. There will be a premier racing series but not the F1 we have known. Anyway, this is a discussion for another time. What else is happening now?
This is the second year with the regulations introduced in 2017. I am interested to see how this transpires with regard to the performance of the teams outside the top three (Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull). At this point my focus is on McLaren and Toro Rosso. Have McLaren made the right decision by dropping the Honda engine and taking the Renault? No doubt there will be an increase in performance compared to last year but will it be eclipsed by this year’s Honda engine?
On arrival at the track I purchased a ticket allowing access to the platform overlooking the pit lane and paddock, plus the grandstand at turn 10 La Caixa. These options allowed me to explore some different angles from my previous visits. I have to say that it took me a good while until I got my photo ‘legs’, it being my first track meeting of the season, the last being way back in November. My difficulty getting back into it was a little distressing at first, but the only answer is to keep going at it. By the end of the day I was like a seasoned hunter, totally absorbed and focused on my prey and making the most of what access I had to the action. Two days at the track would be good. I could then afford to be more patient and contemplative on the second day and wait for particular shots such as drivers appearing, ‘celebs’, the angle of the sun or whatever. But, I’m not complaining. The 3,700 photos I have will keep me busy editing and processing and reliving the moment once more.
Thoughts on performance
My pick of the day goes to the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB14, being pushed hard by Daniel Ricciardo and looking like he means business. Second goes to the Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+. I think they may have been on a different strategy for much of the day compared to Red Bull but at times Valtteri Bottas was quite aggressive, especially into turn 10. He approached at high speed, braked late and turned in oh so tightly, clipping the apex, much more than anyone else on the track at the time, who all seemed to take the corner wider. It was quite impressive and a technique useful at any point in a race but especially at the start on the approach for the first corner. He looked like a winner to me!
I didn’t get a feel for Ferrari this time. They were in the garage for much of the middle part of the day for reasons unknown to me. All I can say is they didn’t look bad. The remainder of the field looked up to the job giving me the impression that the racing could be tight this season. I was pleased to see the Williams Martini FW41 performing quite well whilst being driven by Sergey Sirotkin. Not quite to the level of the Red Bull, which gradually caught up over a number of laps and eventually overtook, but Williams looked good on track. Variables such as tyres and fuel load could have had some effect here.
The disappointment of the day goes to… McLaren. The car spent most of the day in the garage having hydraulic issues repaired. I took a sneaky photo of the car after testing, during the pit lane walk, by poking my camera over the screens covering the garage. I just hope the woes of last year do not continue into this year.
Hola halo (preferably adios)
Well, the kindest thing I can find to say about the halo is there is still the rest of the car to look at! To me it is an imposition on the overall form of the car. The driver is obscured by it and that is not good. It’s very noticeable when photographing cars on track. One of the best places to focus is on the helmet but that is no longer possible because the halo is in the way. It’s difficult to identify the driver by the helmet now. As a result the cars are depersonalized and I would guess that is counter to Liberty Media’s philosophy for the sport. I would like to see it go but fear it would be a road so potentially fraught with legal issues that it would never happen.
I have a good feeling about this year’s Formula 1 season. Last year’s top three teams (Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull) are still likely to be at the top again but the potential for a greater mix in results between them is likely. I could imagine Mercedes just about making top spot but my instinct says Red Bull may get the better of Ferrari! The rest of the field will be equally tight and there will be many interesting stories to be played out. McLaren could be a bright dynamic star that also crashes and burns at times. The flip side is seeing what Honda can do for Toro Rosso. Will the young drivers of Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin raise the profile of Williams this year? The competition will be close, certainly at the beginning of the year but, as is often the case, it may well open out later as teams with smaller budgets reduce development for this year’s car and focus their attention towards a car for next year. Bring it on; I can hardly wait. First race, Melbourne, Australia, 22 – 25 March.