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Malaysia 2009

6th April 2009

The secret service.

“Oi! No pictures of the back of the car.”

Hark at the dulcet tones of a Formula 1 mechanic ‘requesting’ that our cameras are pointed away from this oh-so-sensitive part of his charge.

Grand prix car design has and always will be a necessarily secretive environment. This year’s rule changes – and subsequent divergence of engineering interpretations – have ramped up the mood of paranoia among the teams to levels not seen for a good few years.

Down at Brawn – for a team shoot on Friday evening – a number of snappers gathered to photograph Ross and his boys. The shoot went well and everyone smiled dutifully – apart, that is, from the guys tasked with ‘protecting’ the diffuser. Each wearing a purposeful scowl, they set to the essentially futile task of hiding that which had already been shot, either in pre-season testing or in Melbourne.

Up and down the pit lane, levels of security are generally indicative of how well a team is doing on the track. Take Ferrari, where at present they don’t give a monkey’s about cameramen!

Probably the most paranoid so far this year are Toyota – as the BBC’s Martin Brundle experienced on his live broadcast grid walk – employing tactics like nightclub bouncers to shield their triple diffuser from inquisitive eyes.

Toyota’s attitude is likely informed by the knowledge that they employ the services of the busiest ‘spy’ snapper of the lot!

As a photographer working within the sport one gets very used to being regarded as something of a ‘spy’. And as the man responsible for shooting the McLaren ‘fiddle’ brake in 1997, you might reasonably say who am I to argue.

As an editorial lensman, however, I’m generally not interested in ‘trick’ parts unless specifically briefed by a magazine editor. No, it’s the teams themselves who create the market – and their attitude seems all the more ludicrous when one realises that at least half the grid (either directly or indirectly) employs the same photographic agency, with all the access to sensitive areas that remit entails.

Now I’m not suggesting that said agency would indulge in covert activities – but I’d be surprised if the CIA used the same suppliers as the FSB!

What many outside the media world fail to appreciate is the hunger to expose that drives all of us in the press room. Spin and subterfuge only increases that desire. However hard the teams try to cover-up, someone will always get careless – meaning that we’ll get the shot.

It was ever thus, and always will be.

Please now take a few minutes to enjoy my pictures from the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix by clicking on the Formula 1 link at the top of the page.

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