and my first ever attendance of a Grand Prix after following it on TV for more than 10 years.
The Shanghai F1 Circuit was inspired by the Chinese character “上” (shang), the first character in the name Shanghai.
Last year I thought about going but didn’t get around to arranging leave early enough as then I had to work on weekends and had already put in leave for my attempt of the Great Wall Marathon. This year however, working a regular Monday to Friday week it was on; although getting tickets wasn’t all that easy.
I even went to the track 2 weeks before the race and was just given a phone number to call. I couldn’t buy tickets there but could reserve them over the phone and they would send them to me if I was in Shanghai, which I wouldn’t be 24 hours later. Eventually managed to get them via a local tourism website and not wanting to fight for a good spot on the grass went for next grade up in Grandstands B5-8 but you couldn’t choose your seat, it was just luck of the draw.
Thankfully the Metro Line 10 was open for both days (which it wasn’t in 2010) so getting to and from the circuit was easy enough. The plan was to get out to the circuit for qualifying which we did and as we walked from the Metro station towards the circuit we could hear the whine of a F1 engine being revved and I started to get really excited. The queues weren’t to bad as we made our way into the track area and up to our seats which turned out to have a great view. We looked straight down the start/finish straight, could see the pit lane and the team garages, we were also high up enough to see most of the track and so could track cars as they sped around the rest of the circuit. Check it out…
As I sat there, looking down on the track I couldn’t believe I was actually about to see a F1 car in person, witness a qualifying session live and hear the sounds so many commentators have referred to for myself. It was fantastic. Even better that the weather played along and we had clear skies forecast for both days. And then we heard the engines, first one, then another, two more and the cars began to make their way out of their garages into the pit lane to begin qualifying Q1.
Qualifying also gave me the opportunity to put my new telephoto Canon 55-250mm IS lens to the test and try my hand at panning photography. Where the moving object stays in focus while you pan the camera blurring the background. For my first attempt there were a lot of bad shots, and it took me a while to realise I had the wrong ISO setting before changing it to auto and then choosing the right shutter speed was just trial and error but I got a couple decent photos like this one.
Before we knew it the F1 qualifying was over and just when I felt I was getting the hang of panning photography. Luckily for us though, later that afternoon was the Porsche Carrera Cup which would provide some more time to practice as well as some thrilling racing with just 12 laps in total. We moved to another grandstand, security didn’t seem to concerned, and got closer to the action where I think I got some really good panning shots like these.
On race day we got out to the track early to catch the 2nd half of the Porsche Carrera Cup before getting lunch and settling in for the main attraction. They had the drivers parade where they drive around the track on an open top double-decker bus, followed by some pre-race entertainment in font of the main Grand Stand which we could only watch on the big screens but we were there for the race, sporting my new Ferrari shirt in support of my team.
I had read reports that the race radios they sold at the track were cheap and not worth the money so unfortunately we didn’t have any English commentary. I did try tuning into the radio with my phone but I could only find the local radio broadcast which was all in Chinese and despite having been here for 18 months my Chinese isn’t that good. It was enjoyable none the less, as I’ve said before I had to pinch myself because I couldn’t believe I was actually sitting watching a Formula 1 race live. In between watching the cars fly by and the action from around the track on the big screen I managed to capture this high-speed shot of my team.
Once I thought I had the hang of panning photography I started getting bolder and playing with the shutter speed trying slower and slower speeds which decreases the margin for error but produced some interesting results like this shot where you can see the Image Stabiliser working overtime to make up for my deficiencies as a photographer.
Without commentary we had to rely on keeping track of the cars and following the action on the big screen. The only problem being that the big screen wasn’t all that big. Here is a shot at full zoom of the final race classification.
Despite not being able to follow the race that well and the trouble getting tickets I do not regret going and it will probably remain amongst the top 5 things I have done in China. Here is a little video I put together of my experience, photos and footage from the 2011 Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix for your enjoyment.