Photographers' Blog

Prayers and cheers in Vettelheim

Heppenheim, southwestern Germany

By Kai Pfaffenbach

To watch a car race on television from a comfortable couch is fun, but to cover a Formula One Grand Prix as a photographer at the track is always thrilling. It is fast, exiting and produces nice pictures (most of the time). As I have covered quite a lot F1 races across Europe over the past 17 years with Reuters, I would never have imagined that my most exciting experience as a photographer in connection with F1 would be the public viewing of the last race of this season.

Germany’s Sebastian Vettel was leading the driver’s ranking 13 points ahead of his Spanish rival Fernando Alonso when the starting lights went green on the Interlagos circuit for the Grand Prix of Brazil in Sao Paulo. More than 2000 people were waiting for that moment in Heppenheim, the hometown of Red Bull driver Vettel, who has won the last two driver championships. The inhabitants of Heppenheim, also fondly known as Vettelheim, were in an easy mood when Vettel got ready in the fourth position on the starting grid, while Alonso started in eighth. Just a few seconds later emotions were turned upside down.

The German got off to a poor start and to make matters worse was in a collision with Brazilian Bruno Senna’s Williams that left him facing the wrong way with a damaged car. The cheering turned into praying…

Even the greatest optimists started to loose confidence. Everybody had simply expected just a big party to celebrate Vettel’s third consecutive Championship. As Red Bull team principal Christian Horner informed Sebastian via their radio that “There is visible damage, it is not the front wing, we cannot fix it,” some of the Vettel fans almost fainted!

Members of Vettel’s supporter’s club were holding hands, others closed their eyes – it seemed that his car would last only a few more rounds. Yet four laps later after being assured by the Red Bull technical head the data looked good, he drove faster and faster. Confidence gained. The public viewing room swelled with expectation and relief and the cheering went up again.

Working in the pit lane without earplugs

Excitement best describes my feelings about Formula One racing. Ever since Ayrton Senna battled with Alain Prost in the late 80′s my heart was linked to this circus and more so when Colombian driver Juan Pablo Montoya won a place in the Williams team. He even managed to take the checkered flag in Monaco which was enough to make a whole country crazy.

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany is pushed into the garage during qualifying session for the Australian F1 Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne March 26, 2011. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

Those were the days of being a sort of slave inside the dark room, learning and dreaming about having the opportunity to shoot at the side of a track, any track, Interlagos in Sao Paulo was the closest at that time, so it became my objective for years.

Moving to Australia brought my dream one step closer and I went to Albert Park in 2009 for my first ever Grand Prix.

from Raw Japan:

Call me “Crasher”


My nickname among the Reuters photographers in Tokyo is "Crasher".

They call me that because I always seem to get pictures right at the moment of a crash whenever I cover motorsports.

One colleague sometimes teases me saying "You’ve got to stop pouring oil on the track," and I answer: "I would never use oil -- I only use banana skins!"

In motorsports the most exciting moment you can capture in a picture is a crash.

Singapore F1: A timelapse view

Photographer Tim Chong captures the momentus Singapore Grand Prix, the first Formula One race to be held at night.

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