The British F1 Grand Prix 2015 is always a favourite with the British crowds, and with Lewis Hamilton leading the Driver’s Championship, they were hoping that he might just pull off another win. They weren’t disappointed!
2015 has been a very interesting year, what with my WEC accreditation, Le Mans accreditation and now FIA F1 accreditation for the British F1 Grand Prix 2015.
I have a system for shooting endurance races which boasts up to 60 cars, up to 180 drivers, and race lengths of 6- or 24-hours, and so with just 20 cars and 20 drivers and a maximum of two hours racing, F1 should be a doddle.
If you read my Looking for the Spirit of Le Mans blog, you will know that the Le Mans experience was a race against time, from the moment I arrived at the circuit, until I left after the race. Looking back on the British F1 Grand Prix 2015 it was exactly the same, except with more restrictions on access, and less time to do what I needed to do.
I know the Silverstone circuit reasonably well having covered WEC, GP2, GP3 and numerous club events there. Covering the GP2 and GP3 events last year I gained some idea of the stringent access controls surrounding the F1 circus, but this time I had F1 accreditation, so I could at least get into the paddock and trackside. Anything beyond that would be out of reach, and even permanent F1 media have significant restrictions, so I was under no illusion that paddock and trackside would be the ultimate prize for me.
The total track time for an F1 weekend is a maximum of seven hours spread over five sessions, making it marginally longer than a single 6-Hour WEC race. Overlay the difficulties of getting to a variety of locations trackside within the time available and overcoming advertising hoardings and other obstacles that reduce the shooting opportunities. I’m sure that you can see a challenge developing.
Silverstone is a fast circuit so the maximum two-hour race duration was never going to be achieved, save for a series of safety car periods. My plan was to cover the start from Luffield for the first ten laps or so and then move onto Club before getting back to the media centre to drop off the 500mm lens, load up shorter lenses and sharpen my elbows for the close combat of parc ferme and the podium.
The plan worked reasonably well apart from getting back to the media centre, because instead of the luxury of the air conditioned leather seated media shuttles I had to run, yes you heard it run, across from Club corner, vault the Armco and climb swiftly up the Tecpro to get a vantage point for the podium shots! But I’m getting slightly ahead of the story…
During qualifying in the lead up to the British Grand Prix, it wasn’t because of his lightning quick times that Lewis Hamilton was grabbing the limelight, but rather the fact that he wasn’t at the top. That is until the final session, when he pipped team mate Rosberg by 0.113s to make it yet again an all-Mercedes front row for the start, claiming that he had not been able to find the right balance in his car. In third place was Felipe Massa with his Williams team mate Valtteri Bottas alongside, keeping it nice and tidy. Then in fifth and sixth was, you guessed it, the Ferrari pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel making for a very orderly setting.
A botched start by Hamilton saw him down in third before the first lap was run, with the two Williams out front. In order to gain back the advantage on their opposition, the Mercedes crew staged a dummy pit stop but none of the cars did pit, which was all a bit of a waste of time. However Mercedes did slip back in front with a clever pit strategy a bit later, which left the Williams pair out a bit long when the rain arrived.
At the start Lotus, McLaren and Marussia all had a coming together and as Alonso tried to avoid the mess he slid into Button resulting in a mass exodus of cars at the start. Alonso escaped, just, as his car only needed a new nose but this put him down the field. Vettel turned an unimpressive race into a podium finish by pitting at the right moment while his team mate Raikkonen was not as fortuitous. Sahara Force India scored points by finishing seventh and ninth, sandwiching Raikkonen between them in eighth. Red Bull’s Kvyat put in a spirited performance to finish in sixth place.
In the end though, if predictably, it was Hamilton who was followed home by Rosberg and Vettel. After nine rounds of the championship, Hamilton leads Rosberg by 194 points to 177, with Vettel on 135 points. It sounds like a big points gap but remember we are only half way through the season…anything can happen in motor racing, and usually does!
Formula 1 has long been portrayed as the pinnacle of motor sport. Having been close to the WEC races for the last couple of seasons, I’m not sure that it still is, but that’s a subject for another day. All I can say is, Formula 1 is fast…blink and you’ll miss it!
Written by: John Mountney with Glen Smale