When the average American is asked what Formula One is, the general response is something along the lines of, “Well that’s just fast, strange looking cars that run in the Indy 500 right?” Wrong. “Ok, what makes it different?” My response: Just trust me. Come and Race it.
And that is exactly what America did this past weekend.
After five long years, the United States finally has its Grand Prix back. But it was not without hardship. For many months over the last two years, it seemed like the dream would be ripped out from under us….again. But in the end, a passionate group of people stood up against those that didn’t believe and didn’t want to believe, and built us an AMAZING race track and hosted what appeared to be the perfect Grand Prix weekend.
Working my first Grand Prix as a professional photographer was a challenge and an honor. It's something I've worked half my life toward achieving and it did not disappoint. I've covered plenty of car racing in my "short" career, but I was thankful that I had some idea of what to expect when covering F1 cars running around a track. Photographically it is challenging because they are extremely fast and nimble and the general area you need to have sharp (the driver's helmet) is a small target when the cars are running so far away from you due to expansive run off areas. While I initially wrote on Thursday night that the track looked like it might not produce much in the way of stunning photos, I proved myself wrong. It is a challenging place to work, but a fun one. There are lots of colors and lines. At many times during the day, half the circuit is backlit, which many photographers enjoy shooting racing cars where the sun is working with you to produce deep shadows and lots of contrast, and the unique buildings and grand stand seating structures created fun and interesting visual aids to compliment the cars.
As usual, the drivers were hard to pin down. In many cases, you just have to be in the right place at the right time to catch them, or wait until they are in the "bull pen" doing TV interviews to do portraits. It makes it stressful to find nice portraits while they are always on the move, but that is part and parcel of the job.
Overall, the general feel I got from the F1 paddock was that F1 had finally found the right spot. Mario Andretti said it best, "Welcome home, Formula One." And I think he's right. Much of the success this past weekend is due to a small group of people; Kerri Olsen and Kevin Olsen among them. Without their support, bravery and tenacity to ensure that the event get recognized, who knows what would have become of it. There are so many people who made it a weekend that anyone who was there will never forget, but I do know everyone left with a smile on their faces, and I'm fairly confident everyone is excited to come back next year.