Guns, fast cars and beautiful women. They sound like the ingredients for a Hollywood blockbuster but it was all on show in Brazil, for better or worse.
The attempted attack on Jenson Button was quite a surprise. I first saw it on Twitter when I got back to my hotel and then it was all over the papers the next day. The story got bigger and bigger overnight and McLaren decided to call a press conference on Sunday so he could explain first-hand what happened.
It was a bit of a wake-up call for everyone because I think a lot of people had become quite blasé about the dangers in Sao Paulo and forgotten about the degree of poverty in that area. There is a favela right next to the track and the people that live there have no money. For some of them stealing laptops and wallets from wealthy Europeans is an easy way to make a quick buck.
I’ve got a friend who’s a local and he said that when you come up to a red light in a dangerous area you have to cruise up to it and keep an eye out for anything suspicious. If you see somebody approaching you, you make sure you have an exit route and floor it regardless of the light. He also said a lot of the attacks aren’t with real guns but with fake ones that look real – although you don’t want to hang around to find out.
I was having dinner with one local after the qualifying on Saturday night and he’s just bought a brand new Range Rover and had it made fully bullet proof. The glass is 2.5 inches thick and it’s not a fad out there, it’s just what people do – assuming they have the money.Two lenses were stolen from the photographers’ area over the weekend. We were based down in a tent, which was nice enough, but based away from the main paddock and almost in a public area. We think the thieves came in through the toilets, and looking back I do remember seeing two people in the photo area who I didn’t recognise. In the morning we heard that two lenses – a 300mm worth around £6,000 and a 400mm worth £10,000 – had gone missing.
It’s a shame because I don’t want to paint a bad picture of Interlagos; it’s always one of the most vibrant weekends of the year and a great event overall. I think a lot of these problems could be solved if the organisers made it clear what the dangers are before we go out. For example, people should be told not to leave the track wearing team clothing or with the parking passes on the windows of their cars. To any would-be carjackers those are like giant dollar signs.
But once you’re in the circuit there is always a great atmosphere and before the race starts there are always loads of people queuing to get in, which is a bit of a rare sight at a grand prix nowadays. The fans are brilliant and as I was walking from the grid to my position for the start they were jumping up and down and chanting “photo, photo, photo” and having a great time.One of my favourite moments of the weekend was in the pit lane after the race when Red Bull was celebrating its constructors’ title. The BBC was doing its F1 Forum coverage – getting in the way as usual – and decided to set up its presenters right in front of the photo opportunity with the team. We started jeering them out of the way and they eventually moved aside as Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber came in with bottle of champagne to kick off the party.
The celebrations were pretty wild and various team members were picked up by their colleagues and paraded around, but I felt that I hadn’t got the one picture that really summed up their victory. I was looking for a bit of passion so I followed Sebastian from TV crew-to-TV crew and eventually got in front of him and yelled, “Sebastian, Sebastian! Come on! Come on!” He just looked at me, held his finger up and said, “Calm down, calm down”. The end result is him giving me his trademark celebration right into the camera. It’s a great shot and very much my picture as it was a reaction to me personally and he’s looking right down the lense.Another little exclusive I managed to get was with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. After the podium I left parc ferme and went back into the paddock. As I passed the McLaren hospitality I just caught a glimpse of Lewis talking to Jenson and I thought I’d be a bit cheeky and go inside. I wondered in without any other photographers following me and there was Lewis and Jenson sat watching the press conference on TV.
I don’t usually sneak into hospitality areas but this was a great opportunity and I just shot photos without them batting an eyelid. If they’d turned around and said, “Do you mind?” I would have happily left but instead they just sat there and chatted away.Aside from the on-track action, we also went to the official premiere of the Senna movie. I’d been to a screening in Japan but this was the proper red carpet event. We were probably only two of five or six Europeans invited and we were suited and booted alongside all the Brazilians. It was quite emotional in the room, we were in the same screening as Bruno Senna and some parts of the film were very touching.
I was sat next to Josef Leberer, Ayrton’s personal trainer, who was with him the day he died. I think he’d forgotten parts of it and it brought back memories from the early days at McLaren and the good times as well as the bad times.
So overall it was a good weekend and we now head to Abu Dhabi for what will be a thrilling finale to the season. We’re also looking forward to a more varied diet as plenty of meat is still sitting heavy in our stomachs after several visits to Churrascarias in Sao Paulo.