On Thursday 5 and Friday 6 July - the pre-race days at the British Grand Prix, I had the pleasure of photographing Formula One racing driver Sergey Sirotkin, for an exclusive feature about this up and coming Russian 22-year-old from the Williams Martini Racing team.
Before any of this could take place, I had to apply to the FIA to ask for accreditation, the criteria is notoriously strict. I wanted to somehow get behind-the-scenes to photograph the intricate and precise world of Formula One, working with one of the world’s leading Formula One teams, Williams Martini Racing.
By photographing Sergey, I was aiming to appeal to a younger generation and to gain exposure in the emerging markets, such as Russia, China and the USA. I pitched the idea of a story called 'Under the Helmet' to various well known glossy magazines in the hope that the feature would appeal to one of them to spread the word, after a lot of time, effort and rejection, a Russian magazine called Rútage London Lifestyle Magazine, replied to my email invitation saying they would love to feature Sergey and had been looking for an opportunity such as this for some time. At last my journey was on the right track.
The photographs above show Sergey 'walking the track' - a ritual that happens on the Thursday morning before each race, when the driver walks the full length of the track with the engineers so they can get a feel for it, and to discuss any issues they may have. The Silverstone track measures 5.891 km (3.660 miles) and has 18 turns, this took place on the hottest day of the year and proved to be quite a trek, phew!
The Thursday before the race is also traditionally media day. On this particular Thursday, Sergey took part in pre-arranged interviews including the one for Rútage London Lifestyle Magazine, autograph signings and fan-based interaction fun with his team mate Lance Stroll.
It was an eye opener for me as I didn't quite realise the number of people who were involved in the finest detail of the sport and the intricacies and technology of the cars. It is a physically and mentally challenging sport and the drivers have to be in tip-top condition to compete at this level.
My accreditation gave me access to the Paddock, I was also welcomed into the Williams motor home to photograph Sergey during interviews and whilst he was relaxing, I got to know the media team and to see just what goes into the pre-race days to make sure the drivers are in top form, physically and mentally for the challenge ahead.
I was also given access to an engineers’ briefing which carries highly confidential information, all the engineers (at least 20) and the drivers sit at desks in front of computer screens with headphones on, due to the sensitivity of the information I was only able to photograph close up of Sergey during the briefing, this takes place in a room above the tyre store, although the engineers are whispering very quietly into their microphones, it is so quiet you can hear a pin drop! I was so grateful for the silent electronic shutter on my Fuji XT-2, any noise or distraction would not have gone down well and I'm sure I would have been asked to leave!
The precise timings and dedication from all involved in the Williams Martini Racing team goes a very long way into developing this engaging, hard-working and most of all focused young man on his journey in Formula One.
I think you’ll find the photographs speak for themselves!
It was a privilege to have been given access to the 2018 British Grand Prix and to see first-hand how much work and money is invested in this wonderful sport. I wish Sergey and the Williams team all the very best for the future.
Before I go, a very big thank you to all at Williams, especially Sophie, Jacques, Emma and Ann for making this possible and for welcoming me into the Williams family. To Anna at Rútage London Lifestyle Magazine for taking the story and of course to Martin Turner, former SKY Sports F1 chief, for showing me the way, I'm very grateful!