Shakin' it up!
Saturday FP3 pitlane-tabard box ticked. Weather forecast websites foretell a full-sun Friday so I'll be on track for the duration. Media room desk reserved, internet connected, locker secured and camera gear primed. I’m ready for a flat-out four days of action-packed F1 photography.
Formula 1’s annual trip to Montreal is one of the more popular trips of the year. A proper old-school track – albeit badly in need of some major modern-era renovation – located in a bustling little city populated by knowledgeable fans who come to enjoy the race weekend. Over the years the state of Quebec's economic decline has resulted in a very obvious downturn in the look and feel of Montreal, but, for the so inclined, there is still much fun to be had...
For most F1 snappers Grand Prix Thursday is – like Friday, Saturday and Sunday – formulaic in nature.
The guys employed by teams to ‘spy’ loiter at the scrutineering end of the pitlane, zoom lenses zoomed long so as to reveal those oh-so-important technical details. Jockeying for a view, they elbow aside the men who scribble drawings of what the real aero-understanding talent have designed and built.
On the paddock side of the garages the news agency photographers trawl up and down, stalking lesser-spotted drivers and more-often-seen team bosses. The Ile Notre Dame Circuit has a unique paddock parade of prefabricated cabins placed in a roughly ordered fashion, variously employed by the teams and the media, all sat on platforms overlooking the 1976 Olympic rowing lake. It’s not the easiest place to work for anyone, but a challenge nonetheless.
There’s a buzz, some hullabaloo, celebrity guests in the paddock on a Thursday.... Surely not!
Perched atop the garage buildings in Paddock Club luxury, Dutch beer behemoths Heineken are unveiling their multi-year, multi-million-dollar F1 sponsorship plan. In front of a beer-quaffing gang of journalists and flash-gun-firing photographers, FOM boss Bernie Ecclestone is looking pleased, as surely he should. Major mega-money commercial partner deals are depressingly rare right now, so there’s much for Ecclestone to smile about.
Joining Bernie up on stage, expertly organised by F1’s top PR agency, are a Bond girl, a Barcelona football superstar, a Welsh rugby legend, Sir Jackie Stewart, David Coulthard and senior Heineken brand director Gianluca Di Tondo, for a glitzy presentation of just how the Amsterdam-based beer brand is set to shake things up in digital F1 marketing.
Launch do over and it’s back to the keyboards for the alcohol-infused scribes. Rushing to file their reports against tricky GMT deadlines they tap, tap busily away.
A little more pacing up and down the paddock, a few more shots in the can, and the photographers retire to their very own – darkened – prefab, laptop screens shining brightly as hundreds of pictures fill the internet air.
And that’s it, another Grand Prix Thursday. Done.
It's Baku next week – for the first Azerbaijan race – so a vantage-position-discovering track walk will be required. Other than that two-hour excursion, though, this Grand Prix Thursday should be pretty much the same as any other, save for the absence of bonus beers laid on by a global megabrand…