If you’ve ever had challenges taking a photograph, then amp up the task by trying to photograph a Formula 1 car hurtling past you at over 300km/h. That is exactly what our own lensman, George Hitchens of Melbourne-based Ignite Image, does extremely well.
MotorsportM8 achieved another milestone at last year’s Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix by having George granted international-level photographer accreditation. This is a feat rarely bestowed to an online motorsport platform such as ours, and George – like a pro – dived headling into the task to the point that several of his photographs were shortlisted for the best print image from the entire weekend. And of course, he won.
As we gear up to the start of the 2019 Formula 1 season, George came across a folder of never-before-published photos from that incredible weekend in Melbourne a year ago. So we decided to combine them with some of our other favourite shots of his from the weekend, with George talking us through just how he captured those magic moments. Enjoy!
George Hitchens, Photographer: “Turn 3 at Albert Park provides an opportunity to see the cars move and shake through the right-hander and the following Turn 4 left-hander that leads into the car park section of the track. For the F1 fan, this really shows how each car is set up for balance as you see them wriggle through Turns 3 and 4. In this image, Valtteri Bottas guides his Mercedes into the entry of Turn 3 – the sun was beautifully illuminating the Silver Arrow with its aqua highlights and purple tyres really popping out.”
Richard Bailey, Chief Editor: “From the unpublished archives, this shot made my shortlist because it’s an unusual position for a successful shot like this to work. The most common spots for the photographers at Turn 3 are on the corner apex (as George will brilliantly showcase later in this feature) or miles down Martin Brundle’s escape road. George took a gamble with his positioning and captured Valtteri Bottas perfectly.”
George Hitchens, Photographer: “The Haas of Romain Grosjean flies through the back end of the circuit on a flying lap. Iʼm particularly drawn to the ping of light over the engine cover that makes this one sparkle. A slow shutter really captures the flow through this part of the track, while the iconic Albert Park palm trees provide the perfect backdrop.”
‘Grip and Rip’
George Hitchens, Photographer: “Turn 6 is a tricky little right-hander that sets the car up for the long sweeping left and right back section of the track. The exit of this turn is a great spot for fans to see the sparks streaming off the titanium skid plates. I used an extremely slow shutter here and it turned Fernando Alonsoʼs papaya McLaren into somewhat of a fireball as he ‘grips and rips’ the corner, using every inch of the tyre to get traction down.”
Richard Bailey, Chief Editor: “This is one of the few times all season where the execrable McLaren Renault MCL33 actually looked quick, with the credit going to George’s lensmanship here. Alonso always provided drama on and off the track in his final full-time year of Grand Prix racing, and this shot perhaps captures a slice of the two-time World Champion at his best.”
George Hitchens, Photographer: “For this shot, Iʼm set up on the inside of Turn 3 which provides a gorgeous panorama to track the cars as they negotiate this slower section of the Albert Park track. The livery of the Sauber was possibly my favourite, it is simple and elegant with the traditional racing red of Alfa Romeo. I particularly love the lush green grass and blue sky that really makes this such a vibrant image. Again, I used an extremely slow shutter to capture the colour and movement.”
Richard Bailey, Chief Editor: “The colour and drama of this photo during Sunday’s race underlines the excitement of the entire weekend. What’s more, we were all on hand to witness the arrival of a potential star in the making in the form of Charles Leclerc. The Monegasque driver would finish thirteenth in his debut race – by the end of the year he had a Ferrari contract in his pocket to be Sebastian Vettel’s new teammate.”
George Hitchens, Photographer: “The exit of Turn 2 on race day allowed for some unique shots as the sun was quite strong at this point of the afternoon. Using a very fast shutter speed enabled the majority of the light to be cut out, highlighting the RB14’s engine cover and tops of the tyres in quite a seductive fashion! This image really shows the form of these magnificent cars, sculpted to perfection.”
Richard Bailey, Chief Editor: “To an editor’s eye, this photo has so many interesting features to catch the eye. There’s a moodiness created by shooting the RB14, with its dark matt bodywork, into the light. The smoothness of the car’s flanks contrast with the rough texture of the tarmac, which is also stained by the tyre marks from Ricciardo’s teammate, Max Verstappen, having his wild spin early in the race at this very corner.”
‘Shaken, not stirred’
George Hitchens, Photographer: “I took this at the exit of Turn 10. There’s brutal acceleration out of the preceding tight right-hander as Lance Stroll pushes his Williams to the limit. At 1/15th of a second, this Martini is definitely shaken and not stirred!”
George Hitchens, Photographer: “By far one of my favourite spots to shoot from in the late afternoon on Friday during FP2. This is the entry to Turn 3 which is lined by beautiful tall trees just outside the catch fencing. The late afternoon sun cuts through the trees and provides an opportunity to capture glimpses among the shadows… It’s quite dramatic and sexy, I think!”
Richard Bailey, Chief Editor: “Poor Stoffel Vandoorne was all but invisible against the might of his teammate Fernando Alonso. The Australian Grand Prix saw the Belgian kick off a run of being outqualified by the Spanish veteran at every Grand Prix in 2018 – it was a dramatic fall from grace for the driver who’d smashed every record in GP2 just a few years before.”
George Hitchens, Photographer: “Saturday morning and Melbourne delivers (as it does best) when you least expect it: rain. Wet weather gear on, it’s time to capture something a little more dynamic and moody! The amount of water these wet weather tyres expel is phenomenal to see, with plumes of spray creating rooster tails high in the sky. A front-on shot of Nico Hülkenberg also showing the camber (offset) of the front wheels which assists in turning speed and balance. The electric yellow livery really popped out on this dark morning.”
Richard Bailey, Chief Editor: “I remember the lead-up to the practice session, with George and I having to sprint from the carpark to the media centre in pouring conditions. Photographing in the wet is uncomfortable and during a Free Practice session there are few opportunities to grab a decent shot because the teams are reluctant to put unnecessary mileage on their cars.”
George Hitchens, Photographer: “Another little beauty from a cloudy and slightly damp FP3. This one was captured as I was walking between photographer points between Turns 6, 7 and 8. Using the catch fencing to my advantage, I captured a sweeping shot of Sebastian Vettel, with the cloudy and grim backdrop providing a little more drama.”
George Hitchens, Photographer: “I love the juxtaposition of Lewis Hamilton driving one way, while the crowd looks the other way. I used a fairly slow shutter speed to blur the crowd into a sea of colour.”
Richard Bailey, Chief Editor: “Another photo from the unpublished archives – how did we miss this at the time? – Lewis showed that he meant business from the outset. Even the crowd couldn’t keep up!”
George Hitchens, Photographer: “Carlos ‘Chilli’ Sainz Jr tearing down the run to Turn 6. What I love about this image is the dark foreground and car, offset by the almost fluorescent Yellow highlights on the car. This one really jumps out at you.”
George Hitchens, Photographer: “This image was captured on race day during the drivers’ parade on the main straight. It was the first time I managed to get onto the start grid whilst the drivers were waving at fans around the track. I decided to soak it all in with the huge crowd around me, but then this little boy caught my eye. Standing up on his seat holding a drawing he made of Sebastian Vettel, this is F1. Dreams are made here. This is why they race.”
Richard Bailey, Chief Editor: “While there is beauty and artistry in the cars, and heroism in watching the star drivers do battle, you should never forget that Formula 1 exists because of and for its fans. This little fella would have been very happy to see Sebastian Vettel win just a few hours after this epic photo was taken.”
George Hitchens, Photographer: “Qualifying with Lewis Hamilton as the master exits the final turn onto the start/finish straight. The movement and flow created by a very slow shutter speaks volumes. His car leapt to a blistering time of 1:22.824 to take pole position for the race.”
George Hitchens, Photographer: “This is a sentimental favourite as I was able to print this image, along with some others at the Nikon (yes Nikon) media support centre. I shoot Canon but was invited to print at the Nikon media support centre by Jeremy Brown who runs the phenomenal support team there, and good friend Joshua Paul who encouraged me to get some images printed on ‘The Wall’.
“It’s an intimidating thought as lots of the local and International photographers print their work throughout the weekend and they are displayed inside the media centre (inset picture). After the race on Sunday, Jeremy and the support staff select their favourite printed image as a little competition, my image of Lance Stroll in his Williams took the chocolates and won the prize.
“For some photographers, this may seem like nothing, to me it was a massive compliment to have a little recognition by professionals such as Jeremy and the team. Bucket list, tick!”
Richard Bailey, Chief Editor: “When I first saw this moody Friday practice shot of Lance Stroll’s Williams emerging from the shadows on the approach to Turn 3, I knew this had to feature as the title image for our 1:1 interview with him that took place the day before. I’m thrilled that the professional photographers loved George’s classic shot as much as I did!”