Sun, celebrities and Red Bull rancour

Mark Sutton's picture of the week, brought to you by GP Week © Sutton Images

I went over to Silverstone early in the week so I had a good chance to have a look around the new layout before the start of the race. It was a chance to get a tour round the new track and have a look at where the holes were in the fencing for photographers.

I saw the new pit complex, which is coming on very well and has a new pit lane exit that crests over a hill – that could be a bit controversial when it’s being used in F1 next year. But from the photographer’s point of view the track is pretty boring to be honest.

The problem is that we are shooting from so far away that we get heat haze from the track and that blurs the images. So in a way we prefer the old track because there were a couple of opportunities around there to get close to the cars. But it seems as though most the drivers prefer the new track and I suppose it gave us a bit more overtaking.

The good news is that they keep investing money into the circuit and it keeps turning an annual profit. The race is still very popular and the attendance figure for the weekend was 305,000 over three days.

305,000 fans turned up over three days at Silverstone © Sutton Images

That’s actually down 5,000 on 2009 but I think that’s only because everybody thought it was going to be the last race at Silverstone last year. Probably the most impressive figure was the 85,000 they had on Friday, because that proves people from the UK are really dedicated and enjoy their three-day pass.

But because it’s such a big venue it doesn’t always feel like there are that many people there. If you go to Old Trafford to watch Manchester United there are 76,000 people there and it’s obvious because they are all in such a small space. But despite being spread out, the fans still create a magnificent atmosphere – I’ve never seen so many McLaren hats in one place in my life.

People in England really spend their money on F1 and I think increasingly they go to the grand prix almost as a holiday. That’s what my parents used to do when I was younger, the beginning of our holiday was always the British Grand Prix and then we’d go off in the Ford Cortina camping. That was what got me so interested as a kid.

Billie 'the Piper' Hill showing his support for McLaren © Sutton Images

But one of the fans from this weekend stands out more than most. He’s known as Billy the Piper and goes to a lot of the grands prix with a megaphone and a shiny McLaren hard hat. I was on my way back from the Santander stand, where we had a raffle going on for Great Ormond Street, when I met him for the first time.

In total I think I met him three times over the weekend and even on my way back from the first corner at the end of the race he was there at the fence, I couldn’t get away from him. Mind you he said he’d only had three beers, so he was quite sober.

Back over in the paddock there was the usual dose of celebrities, although most of them only turned up on the Sunday. We got a great shot on the grid of Sir Stirling Moss, Bernie Ecclestone, Jean Todt and Frankie Dettori – all the same height, about 5 foot 1 inch, it was very funny.

Frankie Dettori, Sir Stirling Moss, Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone pose for a photo © Sutton Images

But the grid is manic. It’s one of those races, a bit like Monaco, where everywhere you look there’s another picture and in the end you miss so much because you can’t do it all on your own. We had two photographers on the grid but if you want to catch every moment you need about five people.

The best thing is when you get someone who is at a grand prix for the first time. I was walking around with darts player James Wade and he was absolutely gobsmacked being guided around the Force India garage, he just kept shaking his head in amazement. There was one point when a mechanic working on the gearbox of the car asked him to throw a dart-shaped cylinder into a bin on the other side of the room and he nailed it first time.

But of course the big story of the weekend was down at Red Bull. I knew from the practice sessions that something was going on because they kept swapping the wings on the car as they came into the pits to do back-to-back comparisons. So I thought that was quite interesting and decided to keep an eye on it, but of course I had no idea how big an issue it would become.

Spot Seb: Vettel stays out of the limelight during the celebrations © Sutton Images

By the time qualifying finished everybody knew what was going on, so before the race I stationed myself on pole position and got a picture of Vettel coming onto the grid with a close up of the wing. It was a good move because those pictures have been used quite extensively in the aftermath.

After the race the relationship between the two was still very cold and during all the champagne spraying they didn’t spend much time together. Usually they sit together for the big celebration shot, but on this one Vettel was right at the side and towards the back. It was very unlike Red Bull at any other race this season.

But we’ll just have to wait and see what the relationship is like when we arrive in Germany, it should make for some interesting photos…


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