For those that don’t know already, Shivraj Gohil is an up and coming Formula 1 photographer. We’re big fans of his work and so sent him to Jerez to capture the new cars in action, trackside. Here’s his Jerez Diary. You can also enjoy his 100 best photos of F1 2014 here too.
Wow! What a manic 4 days at Jerez. Compared to my first test at Barcelona last year, Jerez was a whole new ball game with much anticipation in the air and a lot more journalists and photographers ready to pounce on the new era of cars. I found out I was covering Jerez 3 days before I had to fly out which resulted in 30 seconds of elation followed by 72 hours of rushing.
Knowing what to expect is a huge advantage in anything, let alone photography. Although I got many great photos last time around, there was a lot of room for improvement as to how I approach the test and what I needed to bring, I hit the ground running, which proved vital on the first day as the new machines rolled out.
Tuesday morning 7:30am, it’s dark, cold and I’m parking my car in the paddock, all around me are the media elite of motorsport. Priceless amounts of equipment is being carried to the media centre, everyone’s anxious, excited and ready to go. First up are a few car launches starting off with Mercedes, followed by Red Bull and Force India. Was very touching to see dedications on the Ferrari and Mercedes to Michael Schumacher, whose grave condition was quite a talking point within the paddock when the cars weren’t running.
As 9am approached I found myself at the pit lane exit with Craig Boon from Octane Photos, we were having a chat and I realised I didn’t have ear plugs, asked him if he has any, he has none. Damn, I’m gonna be deaf by 9:10am; then the first car rolls out. Ear plug sales will be dead in 2014, the high pitched V8 is long gone, what’s left is what I can only describe as a turbo-propelled jet engine in a car. The New V6 turbos are unique, there’s no question, they are still loud to the core, still have that incredible base and thump on the downshift, but they have lost that top end pitch which makes your head explode. The turbos do sound incredible though, on acceleration and downshift you can hear the turbo winding up and down with a whistling sound and is very apparent on the Ferrari. The Renault did sound how it runs through, coughing and spluttering around the track, Mercedes were on fire though, lap after lap after lap, the engine sounded sweet and consistent.
Hamilton’s crash was the first F1 accident I have ever seen happen with my own eyes and I happened to be amongst the Mercedes’ mechanics as it happened, the car completely bottomed out, carbon fibre flew from underneath and the car just dragged at full speed into the barrier, I ran like the wind to turn 1, got shots of Lewis leaving the car, who had a limp, the W05 wreckage was covered very quickly unfortunately and the clean up started.
It became very apparent though that even though Mercedes were going to lose a lot of time, Renault were in serious trouble. The Renault motorsport trucks had heaps of journalists waiting for news as the top brass had an emergency meeting. I watched Vettel’s car smoke in the garage after a 1 lap run, as he helplessly watched on as the smell of burning electrics and blue smoke bellowed from the back end of the RB10. The rumour mill was in full swing that the Renault engines have a major design flaw and was affecting all the teams with their power units, especially Red Bull thanks to its tightly packaged rear end.
Throughout the duration of the 4 days, I spent 75% of the time in the pit lane, access to the pit lane is so very difficult at other tests, I wanted to make the most of the opportunity and get extreme close-ups and portraits. Cars breaking down and unreliability, although annoying to people out on track, was great fun and gave me a chance to get pictures of the drivers being dropped back to the garage without their helmet on. Yes, this did involve a lot of running and paparazzi-style shooting, but some of the portraits I got were beyond my wildest dreams. It’s a very, very dangerous place though, sometimes I was 3 feet from a car as it went out onto the circuit and you don’t know if a car is going to pit, do a practice stop or go straight into the garage and you put yourself in compromising positions to get the best shot possible, but it can really backfire on you if you are not careful and these drivers do not stop for anyone!
Other than F1 personnel, I met some fantastic photographers and journalists whose pictures and articles I’ve been viewing for years, it’s humbling to be in their company and due to lack of cars running, we often found ourselves talking in little groups all along the pit lane. It also makes you realise you are a professional and ultimately you have to be the very best you can do to stay at the top and always on your A-game, as these guys are the very best.
Memorable moments of the 4 days have to include witnessing Hamilton’s crash, watching Vettel watch his RB10 catch fire, being told off by Lewis Hamilton’s PR man for taking too many pictures during an interview, being crushed by a group of Spaniards as Alonso walks into his motorhome, running to JEV’s broken down Toro Rosso at the pit lane exit not once but twice in the space of 20 minutes, having Nico Hulkenburg tell me to get lost after I asked him to pose for a picture, hearing an entire grandstand heckle 2 Red bull employees as they walked past them and having an in-depth chat with Damon Hill and #BO77AS.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Badger GP for giving me yet another opportunity to showcase my talent and give me a springboard to becoming a permanent motorsport photographer. Poor Adam the editor, I really push him and pester him to contact circuits and get me into tests and races, I hope my 100 best shots from Jerez are worth it though.
My Top 3
2nd day, I hadn’t walked around the track at all on day 1, as I was having way too much fun in the pit lane. The circuit had a shuttle service but I wanted to walk to learn all the corners and get some action shots. Turn 4 is beautiful, it’s long, sweeping and the tower is in the background and these beautiful pink flowers grew next to the track. The sun was blazing around, but I had to wait 45 minutes for the first car to pass, but I had a bag of cashews to keep me company.
Poor Jean Eric Vergne, his Toro Rosso broke down not once but twice at the pit lane exit in the space of 20 minutes. I got some OK shots first time around, but I heard the Renault dying and spluttering on the final corner after it went out again, so I started running to the pit lane exit and wouldn’t you know it, the car packed up in front of me. I let JEV walk pass me then kept shooting his back as he walked away and he quickly turned around and looked in pure disgust as his Toro Rosso is extinguished, priceless moment!
Niki Lauda, what more can you say, this is by far the finest portrait I have ever taken. He has a very distinctive red cap and is easy to find from far away and the scars from his accident in ’76 give him quite a unique look and when shot in certain light, produces stunning results. The sun was shining, there was a bit of reflection coming from the left which acted like a reflector, he looks straight at me as he crosses the pit lane, those green eyes just struck me, I was so happy at the result I wanted to show him but thought I’d let him carry on talking to Toto Wolff.