It was a wet and wild weekend in Spa Francorchamps with good racing and plenty of drama. As a photographer for over 20 years I’ve learned to cope with the worst possible conditions, and at Spa I always come prepared with my waterproofs, covers for the lenses and chamois leathers. In fact I was hoping for more rain in the race, I wanted it to absolutely tip it down because I was at the first corner and I knew there was the potential for lots of action if it got slippery.
It’s always a bit of a gamble to stick with one corner for the whole race and at La Source maybe it didn’t quite pay off this weekend. But in Hungary (with Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello shots) and Turkey (with images of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button) it has worked out very well so you win some and you lose some.
It’s important not just to follow the herd and to try to get something different. It also meant I was in the right place to get photos of the cars coming back to the pits and I got a nice shot of Hamilton with his arm out the cockpit and Mark Webber and Robert Kubica in the background. That’s probably a better shot than one of him just crossing the line with the chequered flag and it made it onto the cover of GP Week.
Unfortunately we missed the Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button clash, but you can’t have photographers on every corner. We were in the process of trying to buy one from a Dutch photographer but he wanted thousands for it, and a day or two after the incident it’s just not worth that kind of money.
The famous example of a deal like that was someone who paid $100 for a roll of film with Diego Maradonna’s hand of God goal. It was taken by a punter in the crowds and was one of only two photos of the moment caught by camera. In the end the guy who bought it made an absolute killing on it, but in those days it was just on film and he had no guarantee it was a good shot. If you’re buying something like that it always has to be an image worth paying for and because we saw that other agencies had the Vettel/Button clash we didn’t think it was worth the money.
Away from the track, one of the biggest stories in the paddock was Rubens Barrichello celebrating his 300th race. He held a party in the paddock and all the drivers came along with the exception of one: Michael Schumacher. The day before he’d apologised by text message for the Hungary incident, which I thought was a bit out of order. You’d think he’d have the balls to go up to him and say sorry face-to-face or arrange to meet him somewhere away from the press.But the party was a great occasion. A lot of the paddock has worked with Rubens at some point in their careers and there were people from Force India, which used to be Jordan, and few Red Bull faces from the Stewart days.
As I walked in they were showing a video of his career and he was stood right next to me crying with the emotion of it all. Having all those drivers turn up for him and his kids appear on the video saying “Well done Daddy” was obviously very moving for him. It’s nice to see a driver who wears his heart on his sleeve.
He got a range of gifts from different corners of the paddock, the most impressive of which was a bike from Cosworth with some sort of KERS unit on it. The rear wheel is powered by recovered energy and apparently it is capable of some pretty impressive speeds. Bernie Ecclestone gave him a medal, which might not be the best gift in the world, but was in good spirits.He also managed to get the Brazil flag on the Williams car this weekend to match his special one-off overalls and helmet. You know you’re special if you can get Williams to break from its blue and white corporate colours and get a bit of colour on the car. In my opinion it was an improvement.
Personally I’ve followed Rubens since 1991 and his Formula 3 days. I asked him for an autograph and said to him that our careers had run side by side for nearly 20 years, he replied: “Yes, we’ve been together for a long time, probably longer than I’ve been with my wife!”
He’s always been a great ambassador for Formula One and has never had a bad word to say about anyone. I always see him as the Gary Lineker or Ryan Giggs of F1, someone who’s clean cut and avoids controversy. Rubens is a real team player and has always done what he’s been told … of course that was to his detriment at Ferrari but I think people sympathise with that.
The other party on Friday was down at Red Bull where Mark Webber was celebrating his 34th birthday. I wasn’t there but one of our other photographers sneaked into the garage and managed to get a great shot of him holding a sparkler in his mouth like a cigarette. It was something a bit off-beat and that’s perfect for a Friday.It was a great weekend overall but next up is Monza and that’s a circuit we always look forward to because of the history and the atmosphere. There should be better weather too!