Formula 1 and Motorsport photography


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(21-03-2017) - 'Spring Testing' at the Circuit de Barcelona

This must be the latest date into a new year I have ever attended winter F1 testing. The Circuit de Barcelona hosted both four day test sessions, of which I went along to the second, running from the 7th - 10th March. All four days provided warm sunshine, and I recall only insignificant cloud on the third. My red face and consumption of factor 50 sunscreen is testament to the Catalan spring weather. Let’s hope the debate about going to Bahrain for winter testing disappears from now on; Barcelona is best!
The new breed of F1 cars with fatter tyres and aggressive wider profile look superb on track. Once the ‘shark fin’ and wobbly 'T-wing' get banned, they will be spot on. The increased speed is absolutely noticeable. The engines are going to be at 100% throttle much more this season. As a result fuel consumption will be up, and engines will be punished harder. Should make for some interesting racing, fingers crossed. The new Pirelli tyres were a curious revelation, all be it I'm not sure in a good way. The purple Ultra-Soft tyre is no longer the street-track, wreck-in-a-lap special that it was in 2016. Having watched Lewis Hamilton on the final day run consistently for over 15 laps on the purple striped tyre was an eyebrow raiser. It means that they will make an appearance at many more races this year, and be ran for longer stints. In fact I doubt the medium or hard tyres will be needed at all, as the ultrasoft, supersoft and soft tyres are hugely durable. We are back to 80’s style one pitstop races across the whole calendar. In terms of teams and drivers, my view of best to worst is as follows…
Mercedes AMG were easily the best. The talk of “it’s much closer this year” – is nonsense. I know the F1 media want to make it exciting, but the question should be, what race Lewis will have sewn the championship up? I predict by Japan (race 16 of 20.) Lewis provides the air of a consummate professional in the car and in the paddock, posing for selfies with fans and relaxing with Roscoe for media duties. The man will boss 2017. Valtteri looked very much at home driving the W08. His speed on what I assume was low fuel around turn three and nine was spectacular. The car bit into the track and showed a sense of perfect balance. Mighty, mighty quick. I am sure Valtteri will get a number of victories this year, but likely after Lewis has held his fourth World Championship party.
Second best is Ferrari. The car looked a bit loose at times, but more importantly appeared to accept changes in set-up that suited both Kimi Raikkonen and Seb Vettel. It’s speed is without question, and the stopwatch proved this. Seb may win the inter-team battle, but it will be closer this year. Maybe a win apiece to the prancing horse drivers, but only if Mercedes slip up. Maurizio Arrivabene presented a focussed business like demeanour in the paddock. I think he knows the potential is there, but it will require perfect conditions for Ferrari to win.
Red Bull clearly have the most drivable car. The old cliché of looking glued to the race track was evident in the first sector. It was more of an off-throttle experience than braking for both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen into turn one. The speed up the hill of turn two and full gas around the 180 degree turn three sweep before braking into turn four was physics defying. If Renault can turn up with an increased power unit before the Spanish Grand Prix, then maybe the championship won’t be a runaway for Lewis. Either way the fight between Max and Dan will be great to watch this year. I’m erring towards Dan being on top of the inter-team battle. His braking and car positioning into turn ten was ballerina like in balance before hitting the throttle into turn eleven. Stunning stuff to watch.
Leading the mid-field fourth best is Force India. I see a lot of people saying Williams are better this year; but in my view, not as good as Force India. Esteban Ocon I rate very highly, and Sergio Perez is driving like a veteran F1 long termer with the confidence to match. A great pairing that is a big reason I ranked them above Williams. Shame we didn't get to see the pink colour scheme during testing, this is my only disapointment.
The Williams looked super fast with minimal fuel, but as soon as it had a belly full of petrol it seemed to wash out on mid-high speed corners quite badly. A lot of understeer and skittish behaviour under acceleration make it potentially a difficult race car, all be it a strong qualifier. Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll will be in a battle all year with Force India, but the latter I see with more points by the end of the season.
Toro Rosso are a bit of an enigma. The car resembles the Mercedes from a front view, yet has notable handling characteristics of the big sister Red Bull team. Both Carlos Sainz and Dany Kvyat could surprise the Mercedes customer teams of Force India and Williams this year. Franz Tost was chatty and friendly in the paddock which is an indication that things are well at Toro Rosso. Not sure they will challenge the podium, but top ten finishes are expected for both drivers.
One of the teams I hope to jump up the mid field is Renault. I rate Jolyon Palmer and Nico Hulkenberg as drivers to develop this car throughout the season. Maybe a tough start, but I’d hope they challenge Williams and Force India by Silverstone. Handling wise it resembled the Williams at times when heavy. i.e. understeer. They tried a very soft front end on the Thursday morning that made for a lot of sparks from the tea-tray, but appeared to get the tyres ‘switched on’ and thus give good grip in high speed turns.
Now to the wooden spoon club. It will be between three teams. Haas have a good looking car, although the battleship grey may not look impressive on TV. Haas’ biggest issue seems to be brakes. Standing outside turn four on the Friday, Romain Grosjean was having a heck of a time slowing the car down; and ended up in the gravel trap. I read that they may replace Brembo with Carbone Industrie brakes to see if that helps. A tough sophomore season ahead is on the cards if they can’t solve some fundamental and visibly apparent handling issues.
Sauber are almost too nice; I’d like to see some aggression and fire to take F1 by the scruff of the neck from them. I guess it is just the team’s Swiss personality. I appreciate Monisha Kaltenborn letting me and my girlfriend (whom became a paddock WAG for the week) into their paddock home to sign her Zoom Auction book along with Marcus Ericsson. Pascal Wehrlein will likely win the in-team driver battle, but I sense single digit World Championship points at best come the checkered flag in Abu Dhabi.
So that leaves McLaren Honda. Crisis is the obvious noun; and it seems a deep one. Eric Boullier was relatively jovial in the paddock, but I sensed he was knocking seven bells out of someone behind the scenes; or a punch bag. His hands didn’t show any scars. Watching Fernando climb out of his MCL32 having broken down again after turn nine on the Friday morning, he cut a forlorn figure. I asked James Allen what he thought of the McLaren situation; he simply said that “if they are in this position now, they will not recover this season.” Maybe it is time to get that spare Mercedes engine deal that is available since Manor folded. I’d love to see McLaren back at the sharp end, but I fear they have become the modern day Tyrell.
Only a few days now until the Australian Grand Prix will be won by Lewis Hamilton. Okay, I can’t see into the future, but from what I encountered at the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, it will be a good season, all be it one for the F1 connoisseur.

(31-12-2016) - F1 Year in review 2016

It's new year’s eve, and I have a glass of wine in hand preparing for the festivities later. So, what better time to reflect on the F1 season? Looking back to March when I wrote a post Winter F1 Testing blog entry, it seems the final pecking order was not far off. Okay, Ferrari didn't win a race; but clearly Red Bull were as good as I anticipated. Max Verstappen winning at the Circuit de Barcelona for Red Bull was no big surprise, even if the Mercedes pair did trip each other up on the first lap.
There has likely been a billion words written on the internet about whether Nico deserves to be champion over Lewis since the Abu Dhabi race. I'd say Nico deserved getting his hands on the silver drivers’ championship cup once in the last three years. A 2-1 win for Lewis over the '14 to '16 era of design regulations. Fair enough. Nico's retirement was nothing short of a shocker though. Really didn't see that coming like everyone else, except perhaps Nico's close family. Needless to say, with a Championship in the bag, it took a hell of a lot out of him physically and emotionally. I wish him well in his retirement, always a personable guy and had time for his fans.
On the other end of the F1 spectrum, McLaren, Renault and Williams proved to be most disappointing. Probably because I have super high expectations from the veteran British teams (yes, including Renault). The Williams never had balanced grip in the mid-to-high speed corners. With Paddy Lowe joining in 2017, I doubt that will be repeated. Some Mercedes suspension and aero innovations will no doubt be seen on the Williams 2017 challenger. McLaren showed notable improvement throughout the season, but not to the level veteran F1 fans expect. Honda will now benefit from the open powertrain development, and by the time I hear the 2017 Honda V6 hybrid in Barcelona, I expect BIG improvements. With Ron Dennis out of the picture, the question is will the McLaren culture change too? McLaren's arrogance has now faded out, and thus I hope they build a much better package for Fernando and Stoffel to race with next year.
With F1 testing under 60 days away, I cannot wait to see the new cars. The regulations appear to make them look better and go much faster. Will the racing be better? As Keke Rosberg may say with a shrug, "who knows." I just hope there is not Mercedes domination, and someone in a dark blue or red car doesn't let Lewis run away with title number four.

(24-07-2016) - Tour de France, Paris '16

I do enjoy a weekend in Paris, especially when we get a Brit win of Le Tour de France! Chris Froome looked imperious winning his 3rd Grand Boucle!
Security was very tight as you may expect around the Arc de Triomphe where I took my snaps. All Metro exits had two police officers checking your bags etc. In all honesty, the crowd was significantly down, most likely due to the perceived terrorist threat. I remember the manic Lance years when there would be easily 100,000 people lining the Champs-Élysées. Now Armstrong is gone, I am glad professional cycling is a cleaner sport. Chris Froome most likely has French investigative journalists around every corner looking for the slightest chance of doping. From what I can see, it is simply a case of him and the Sky team led by Dave Brailsford doing a better job than everyone else. If you want to be the best, the aggregation of marginal gains is the way.

(10-07-2016) - Splash, Win and Surf...

I should have known that the weather would have a dramatic impact on the British Grand Prix. A good soaking of Silverstone about twenty five minutes before the start meant that the opening laps were going to provide great thrills and spills. Watching the best drivers dice on a wet Silverstone track, seeing awesome reactions as the ice like grip challenged them to the max; 'fantastic' as Murray Walker would say! Some were bound to end up in the barriers, and others would show they are the greatest on the planet. But, err no. With my big lens wrapped in a bag and the remnants of the rain down my trousers, I hear the fateful words, 'Safety Car Start'. Disappointing. Oh well, I am sure they will be let loose after one lap... No again. So, the 135,000 fans got to watch the twenty two F1 cars pootle around until finally the safety car came in along with half the field to change to intermediates. Great, so this means F1 drivers won't be allowed to race in the really wet conditions anymore. The precedent has been set. Why not just red flag it and start when the track is just a bit damp, so that Pirelli need only turn up with the green marked intermediate wet tyres? OK, I remember Japan 2015 very clearly, and I am sure Charlie Whiting does too. I also remember Silverstone 2008. I want to see who the best F1 driver in the rain is. The throttle goes both ways.
Lewis clearly was not going to let anyone else win. A dominant performance managed from start to finish provided the world champion his fourth British Grand Prix victory. The fans were treated again to a British win on home tarmac. Credit to Lewis, he gives back to the fans too. After the usual post-race media commitments it was straight up onto the pit wall fence to acknowledge the vast number waiting to see their hero. After a quick crowd surf, he was back pit-lane side to wave goodbye one last time to his public. Well done Lewis, and well done Silverstone, by far the best atmosphere in Formula 1, even in wet pants!

(05-03-2016) - And the 2016 winter F1 testing champion is...

Ahhhhh, the chill at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for F1 winter testing on a crisp blue sky day cannot be beaten. The view of the snow topped Pyrenees up the start/finish straight is only seen at this time of year; sadly lost in the haze in May for the date of the Spanish Grand Prix. In the four days I was at the track, Mercedes AMG ran the equivalent of 10 races, incredible! On top of that it was clearly the strongest all-rounder. Ferrari may have closed the gap to the world champions, but the gulf is still notable. Red Bull looked 3rd best to me. Totally glued to the track in sector one, and agile in the final sector. In a straight line, it will be difficult for Red Bull with the under powered Tag-nault engine. Williams will be perennial top ten finishers, as so I expect Toro Rosso. This leaves Force India, Renault, Sauber, McLaren, Manor and Haas (probably in that order) as the mid field runners. I have to say the McLaren Honda sounds teeth-gritting terrible off throttle. Not a good advert for Honda cars. Worst of all, the traction and balance of the McLaren looks an absolute handful. Some significant engine management software rewriting and a new rear end are desperately needed for Melbourne. So, in conclusion, I give the award of ‘F1 Winter Testing Champion’ equally to Lewis and Nico, the iron men from Mercedes. They must be dreaming of circulating the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya when they go to sleep at night.

(29-11-2015) - Rosberg shows his mettle in Abu Dhabi...

Although the championships were all wrapped up weeks earlier, the Abu Dhabi F1 weekend is still a spectacle worth watching. Having thought the track was a bit dull from watching on TV in previous years, I can honestly say it is better in person. The rise up after the opening two turns challenges the downforce of an F1 car to the maximum as well as the driver commitment. As a facility Yas Marina is second to none, all be it a billionaires playground to show off their latest trinkets to the haves, and have more crowd. Being somewhat 'street like' in parts, it's nice to get close to the action, and get decent snaps. Nico Rosberg closed out the season with a comfortable win which no doubt annoyed Lewis. Taking the final race of the season stays with you all through to the start of next season. I am sure he will convert this to motivation for the 2016 campaign. Looking back over the '15 season, not a classic by any means. However, the rise of Ferrari as the challenge to Mercedes meant it was not always a sure thing that either Lewis or Nico would be victors. Malaysia clearly proving this. My one big hope for 2016 is that McLaren sort out their woes. It's not just the Honda power unit either. They are so far behind on getting the car balance and aero right, as it is impossible to do this if the powertrain is not representative of where it should be. Oh, and I was eventually proved right that the car is not silver anymore!

(05-07-2015) - Lewis pleases the home fans...

The one thing you can guarantee about Silverstone is changable weather. I had my sun cream and umbrella. I used both. Silverstone may not be my favourite track for taking photos, but it truely is one of the great F1 races to attend. The people make it. Jam packed grandstands with passionate F1 followers makes you remember that F1 is a sport and not a business; or at least on race days like this it is. Lewis duely delivered a masterclass victory handling the late rain to beat Nico Rosberg into second, and Vettel 3rd. It seems the championship is between these three, all be it Lewis looking strong favourite at this stage of the title race. On a personal note, it was nice to meet Nigel Mansell in the fan village area as he walked around his famous 'Red 5' Williams FW14b. Oh, the days of the screaming V10 Renault; I'm still surprised any of the old F1 drivers have any hearing left. Pardon?

(30-03-2015) - Super Seb on Sunday in Sepang...

Well I didn't see that coming! Seb Vettel took an amazing victory, his first for Ferrari. F1 came back with an epic race after the poor show in Australia. A combination of extreme temperature, and the Ferrari 'switching on' the Pirelli perfectly, delivered the desired result. For a race sponsored by Petronas, Nico and Lewis looked practically apologetic to the head of the Malaysian oil giant as he handed out the trophies. Some excellent racing between the two Williams of Bottas and Massa towards the end spiced things up. Have to give a big hand to the two Toro Rosso drivers. Outdrove the senior Red Bull drivers, with Verstappen coming home 7th and Carlos Sainz 8th, celebrations in Toro Rosso fully justified for the two rookies. Meeting Seb Vettel at KLIA on the way home (we were on the same flight to Dubai) it must have been a great victory party, as he didn't remove his mirrored sunglasses whilst signing autographs and letting fans take pictures as he walked onto the 777. Top man!

(26-03-2015) - Uneventful start, but Melbourne is still epic...

It is hard to beat the great atmosphere in Melbourne to start the F1 calendar. Albert Park is an epic setting for the season opener, and the town is bloody marvellous too! Best coffee in the world! The race was unfortunately underwhelming. No Alonso, Bottas, and a McLaren plus one Red Bull out before the lights went out was not what was ordered. The Mercedes were as dominant as expected, clearly showing pre-season testing was merely a case of not wanting to show what they were truly capable of. Williams looked very strong, and they clearly are using the Merc grunt as the best of the rest. Red Bull I don’t get. The car looks beautifully balanced, and Ricciardo extracts all the Renault can give him. It does appear like the best handling car out there. As I type here in KL, it looks like a war of words is brewing between Red Bull and the Renault Sport exec directors. Could be the story of the weekend off the track. Let’s hope for more runners in Sepang come Sunday. It is very hot. 34 degrees and killer humidity means the Honda could struggle in the McLaren, but hopefully Jenson and Kevin can show some real pace soon. Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were on good form at the Petronas event yesterday; some friendly banter showed they are still ‘getting along’. Clearly between the two of them for the win on Sunday. I will be keeping a watchful eye on the Ferrari’s and Sauber’s. The ‘new’ Ferrari engine clearly gives more pop out of slow/mid range corners; so could be a strong show at Sepang. Let’s hope for a better race, and someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger to do the podium interviews!

(01-02-2015) - F1 Testing 2015 is Go-Go-Go !!!...

Okay, the McLaren is silver; but Ron has said this will change, so I'm half right. Glad to see it got a run with Fernando Alonso today, and did not cause a red-flag, talking of which, we didn't see until around 4.15pm! I can honestly say, I have never been to a winter F1 test, that went so long into the day before a red flag came out. On the red theme, very impressed with Vettel in the Ferrari. Looked seriously planted. Still, Rosberg with his over 150 laps shows that the Mercedes is robust, and clearly has more speed in it. I spotted a plane coming into Jerez airport in the afternoon, apparently carrying the new Lotus E23. Thus, I look forward to snapping that tomorrow! All in, a very good start to F1 2015!

(12-01-2015) - 2015 !!!...

Clearly my efforts to keep the F1 Photography blog up to date in 2014 was woeful! I will try better in 2015. F1 testing in Jerez in only 20 days’ time, I look forward to a few days in southern Spain. Weather will no doubt be cold. Big questions are, will the new McLaren Honda do much running? Will it be white/red/orange colour? (It won’t be silver!) How will Fernando Alonso fit back into the team? I’ll let you know on Sunday 1st Feb!

(02-02-2014) - 2014 Kicks of with F1 Testing...

Well, I was glad to be wrong that only Lotus didn't turn up; seems like Red Bull made it, to an extent. So, the important question: How do the cars sound? I can say after four days I was fully used to the V6 rumble accompanied by the whirring whoosh of the turbo; which in Ferrari's case stayed whirring after shut down of the V6 for a few seconds. Mercedes engined cars definitely are on top, and the Mercedes AMG looks the strongest so far. Early days though, roll on Bahrain!

(10-01-2014) - 2014 F1 drivers numbers...

Only 18 days until I hear the sound of 2014 F1 in Jerez; I know at least two teams won't be there. Shame as they are front runners. Interesting to see the drivers numbers announed today. Pastor Maldonado taking #13 is unique, as it certainly hasn't been used in the modern era. FIA F1 2014 entry list

(27-10-2013) - 4th World Drivers Championship...

Seb Vettel; the lad is good! I'm done for F1 snapping this year, but look forward to my next assignment at Jerez for the first test of the 2014 V6-Turbo era!

(21-07-2013) - 100th Tour de France finale...

Chris Froome wins the yellow jersey, what a great evening to be on the Champs Elysee. Doesn't get much better than this! So many Brit's here too; which I am sure annoys the Parisiens a great deal.
Glad they had a twilight finish, and then a very impressive lazer show on the Arc de Triomphe. Look forward to coming back next year to see Froome vs Wiggo.

(19-07-2013) - F1 young driver and Pirelli tyre test at a hot and sunny Silverstone...

Wow, what a fantastic three days of glorius sunny weather at Silverstone! Weather was more like Abu Dhabi, can't argue with that.
Main memory must be the extra big grin on Daniel Ricciardo's face on the second day after the great run in the morning for Toro Rosso, then a very good job interview for the main Red Bull team in the afternoon.

(28-06-2013) - British Grand Prix, soggy Friday...

P1 is generally quiet, but with the heavey rain, no suprises the teams didn't want to come out, especially with Sunday predicted to be sunny. Still, as a snapper, wet weather can be good for interesting photo's. I set up at Club corner, as often you can see who has the best traction (torque mappings) and down force; which clearly wasn't Charles Pic, as he binned the Caterham into the tyre barrier.

(22-02-2013) - Second winter test at Barcelona, icey...

Properly cold! Frozen windscreens on the cars in the paddock. Still love Barcelona, so always happy, even in a wooly beanie hat. What did we learn... 1) Red Bull are epic in pit practice, easy sub 3 seconds consistently. 2) Red Bull have WAAAAY more downforce than anyone else. Webber in turn 3 is easily 5+ KPH faster than the other teams cars. 3) Some of the softer Pirelli's are in fact made of toffee; never seen so many marbles in years.
Mercedes look very woeful, hope they can improve for Lewis Hamilton in his new team. McLaren not much better, hard to say whether they are just trying something new, as JB went very quick in Jerez. Ferrari and Lotus look front runners. Winter testing is always impossible to analyse accurately.

(08-07-2012) - British Grand Prix, four seasons in three days...

Welcome from Silverstone marsh. Feel sorry for the poor folks camping or parking in the soggy fields. The hard standing car park today (Sunday) is nose-tail parking, so some late nights home for many people. Saturday qualifying with the heavy rain delay created some good photo opportunities. Was very happy with some mirror image shots - especially Paul Di Resta in the Force India. Sunday being dry was a bit of an anticlimax, but glad local man Mark Webber ( he lives in Aston Clinton, Bucks) won.

(18-03-2012) - Awesome Albert Park...

Hooray, and 2012 is underway! Great victory by Jenson, which I would never have predicted on Friday. Standing on the inside of turn 1 for P2, it is interesting to see which cars work best under braking, and I would have said Red Bull all the way. The McLarens of Jenson and Lewis were braking late, but locking up a great deal. Also the Red Bull has some weird engine sounds. Definintely some off throttle blowing of the difuser going on, or at least some form of traction management entering corners, all the way through to throttle application on exit.
For FP3 on Saturday afternoon, went up the Eureka Skydeck, which is on the 88th floor of the scyskraper in downdown Melbourne. Some good shots of Albert Park, maybe should have taken more lenses, but my 500mm was okay.

(11-03-2012) - F1 2012 here we go...

Starting this blog heading to Melbourne for the first race of the year; and firstly - loving the Singapore Airlines A380! I think the lower deck at the back was mostly AMG Mercedes and Pirelli personnel, which helps for a chat on a 12 hour flight. However, I'm staying in Singapore for a few days, and not going straight down to Melbourne. Helps the jet lag. Pirelli guys think Seb Vettel will walk it... won't say what they said about the Merc guys! ha ha!
Had a walk around the Marina Bay area, which looks very different when no Grand Prix is on. Pits and paddock are permenent fixtures though. Next time I come back I will stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, totally epic structure.

Copyright - Scott M Bailey.

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