Over the years I have been lucky enough to photograph various racing drivers and teams. I have worked closely with Ferrari, Williams, Jordan, Stewart GP, Damon Hill, McLaren, to name the best. Travelling across the world to these amazing destinations experiencing great hotels, good food, fine wine - I always felt for the fans that went racing - particularly at Silverstone, if the weather was typically British, having to camp out on the flat grounds of an old airfield whilst the heavens opened.... or Hockenhiem in Germany where the forests became over run with camper vans, the passion of Italian tifosi with only one goal - to see a Ferrari win at a home GP.
My project was to document the five days of a Grand Prix with pal Adam Parsons who at the time was The Times motor racing correspondent. He would do most of his work from the press room but occasionally he came out with me. The racing became second to the fans, life outside the pit lane.
I would arrive, like most, on a Thursday and leave on a Monday afternoon after all the trucks had left and the garages were empty.
One hill side became a focus for this book, Rivazza, Imola. A grassy sweeping expanse of green waving gently in the spring breeze. Thursday afternoon saw the calm shattered as the first campers arrived. Out came the shovels, inflatable beds, stoves, chairs etc. It was almost biblical in its transformation.
I spent most of the weekend on and around this hill watching people wake. Using bottles as pillows. As soon as the race was over the hill emptied out, but then it took on a different feel - people would come in and scavenge through the rubbish taking what they could, looking for food, a sleeping bag.....
Here's one review of the Book 5 Days of a Grand Prix.
Jon Nicholson is a well-established F1 photographer. I have always liked Nicholson's photos, and his efforts in '5 Days of a Grand Prix' do not disappoint. His atmospheric black-and-white shots fill the bulk of the book, and they brilliantly express the humanity behind what can often seem a very impersonal sport. Whether it be in the form of an Italian fan singing his heart out with a large stick for a microphone, or Michael Schumacher trotting downstairs for a briefing, Nicholson's photos capture the essence of Formula One.
Some photos have an immediate impact - they smack the viewer right between the eyes and convey their message faster than a cola advertisement. Others require their audience to engage with them a little. While most of the shots in this book work well on both levels, it must be said that virtually all of them lend themselves particularly well to a bit of contemplation. Some readers, for instance, might look at the shots of the bare-chested, beer-bellied fans digging themselves into the hillside at Imola, and compare them to the bare-chested, gym-toned, designer sunglasses-wearing folk sunbathing on a Monaco hotel roof, and think about the ability of F1 to unite such different types of people into a common interest. The more practical, meanwhile, might simply wonder how those Hungarian fans managed to get a whole cow carcass into the circuit. But they all make you think. And no matter how many times you look at them, you always seem to find something you hadn't noticed before.
'5 Days of a Grand Prix' is a great book. It has the potential to appeal to any fan, irrespective of how knowledgeable they are, or where their allegiances lie, because there are images and descriptions here that we, as fans, can all identify with. In the same way that late-1990s Formula One has been accused of becoming too distant from the supporters, this book manages to bring them back together again. Better than probably any other book out there at the moment, it also captures the overall atmosphere and 'state of play' in millennium-era F1. A souvenir of today for the fans of tomorrow.
I recommend this book very, very, highly.
By Mark Gendenning.