Insight Mark Walker March 30, 2024 (Comments off) (329)

AUSGP: TRT’s Race Week Media Diary

Looking back – the Australian Grand Prix was a big one to be working in the media.

Here, the author recounts his weekend at the races, writing stories and capturing the action in what was, at times, a challenging yet rewarding five days…

The Plan

As always before a big meet, I like to plan things out minute-by-minute; having things mapped out means that I don’t have to think on the fly, I don’t miss out on anything, and I don’t double up on photo angles (too much).

The plan before the weekend started is above, although it evolved a fair amount over the meet as priorities and situations changed — for instance, when it became apparent that moving through spectator areas and crossing bridges would cost too much time, Saturday and Sunday were heavily reorganised.

A trick for those at the AGP with the right accreditation is to use the track underpasses on the main straight and at turn 14 – they are typically devoid of queues, which saves bulk time if used in a logical fashion.

As always, many considerations come into play when making a photographic plan, such as sunlight angles, accessibility, the time required to get from place to place, closeness to the media centre, podium celebrations, and more.

Accessibility proved to be a big stumbling block for the weekend on multiple fronts—first, the massive crowd made it impossible to move efficiently through the spectator areas, and second, all of the additional fencing employed to keep punters off the racetrack inadvertently blocked many photo angles or simply made it difficult to move.

As an example, on at least one occasion, a photo hole proved to be locked by a padlock, while in another photo position, the elevated platform on the driver’s right at the pit exit, was not accessible from the demarcation lane, requiring a needlessly complicated access procedure through a catering area and then the GA section.

For Supercars, practically all significant photo angles were covered over the four days, while most vantage points for F1 were ticked off, with the exception of the quick turn nine-ten flick—additional time spent at turn six on Saturday saw that area become a scratching.

One factor that was different year on year for F1 was the lack of red flag stoppages in the main race, which provided a much quicker race and, thus, provided fewer opportunities to take pics on Sunday.

Like Bathurst last year, I found it easier to take my laptop with me so I could file from the field.

Pre-event, I spent some time setting up folders, social post drafts, templates, and story proformas, saving some precious seconds throughout the week.

The other tactic employed was to polish off work bit by bit as the weekend progressed.

Work to be pumped out included the daily TRT galleries, articles such as the TRT Power Rankings (both for F1 and Supercars, with pretty much all of the content sourced on the run via mobile X), the AUSGP Notebook for 2024, plus the Supercars and F1 race report and galleries.

The Faces of F1 gallery was also a work in progress over four days, and this diary.

Getting around Albert Park was a genuine chore this year, with specator flows needing a rethink ahead of 2025.

The F1 paddock: not that interesting, especially if nobody is in it.

Bathurst 1000 Vs AusGP: Compare and Contrast

In the past, I have given this diary treatment to the Bathurst 1000, the other really significant event on the calendar, and interestingly, the stats for both were incredibly close.

All told, over this last weekend, I took 27,307 photos, 96% of the total from Bathurst 2023, while the 71.58km covered on foot came in at 99% of the final Bathurst figure; however, they were achieved in quite different fashions.

For starters, Albert Park is incredibly expansive – I like to cover as much ground in-session as possible, with different angles from different corners, although the tyranny of distance in Melbourne makes this a practical impossibility, with the time lost transiting a significant hurdle.

Also, while there were media shuttles at Albert Park, I elected to control my own destiny better by walking everywhere, while at Bathurst, catching a shuttle is an absolute necessity in many instances.

Another difference is getting to the track – at Bathurst, it was a 750m walk from home to the circuit and back every day; for the GP, it was an amble in from the back straight golf course car park.

In terms of taking pics, the weeks were spread slightly differently.

From the GP, Thursday through Saturday saw 6,000 shots a day, with Sunday’s jackpotting just over 8,000.

At Bathurst, 2,300 on Wednesday was followed by days in the 5,000s, up to 9,000 on Sunday, where the six-hour-long main race paved the way for a lot of imagery ops.

Wednesday, March 20th

0 photos, 8,055 steps, 6.12km walked, at track 2:55pm – 4:05pm

Wednesday was spent collecting credentials, checking in at the media centre, securing a desk and a locker, plus I picked up my fandangled new lender Canon lens for the week.

Walking through the F1 paddock, Oliver Bearman was mid-interview with Martin Brundle in his full Ferrari kit… would he keep wearing it over the weekend?

It was somewhat more autumnal than usual at Albert Park…

Thursday, March 21st

6,060 photos, 23,722 steps, 18.03km walked, at track 6:40am – 7:55pm

Left home at 5:25am for the 50km long commute from the deep ‘burbs of eastern Melbourne for the straight shot down the Monash Freeway, which is an absolute chore at the best of times, let alone at 5:25am with the tradie grand prix in full swing.

A sign of how bad traffic on that particular Thursday came when Waze diverted me away the Freeway at Wellington Road, some 24km ahead of my intended turn-off in the City, so the drive turned into a rather protracted one.

When I rolled into the carpark, it was time for some quick work on the laptop before the sun rose, then shoot the car show that had been placed around the golf course.

Once that box had been ticked, it was off to the media centre at 7:45am to create the car show gallery and prep for what was always going to be a big day, with Supercars having five on-track sessions.

First stop was to do a tour of the F1 and Supercars paddocks, where nothing was happening, before taking in the Innovation Hub area, the historics pits, plus the Motorsport Australia presser with Christian Mansell, Tommy Smith and friends.

By 10:30am, the Carrera Cup cars were practicing, which I took in from turn 12 back to turn ten, the same area I took in the Supercars practice and the Ford Supervan laps.

For Porsche practice two I made it back to turn eight and wound up at turn six, I then filed the first TRT gallery update before taking in the final Supercars practice from the same area.

By the end of that session, I was back at the entry to turn five before I filed the second update from the shade of turn three before the historic demonstration took to the track, which resulted in the biggest shunt of the weekend.

The twin V8 qualifying sessions were taken in from the outside of turn three, then the inside of the track from turn four.

After a quick dash back to the media centre to file, it was time for the opening Carrera Cup race – I shot the start from the tower at pit exit, which I successfully broke into, before finishing up on the turn two photo tower, where I filed before the start of the Supercars opener.

I made it back to the media centre before the chequered flag, finished up the Friday gallery, set up the Historics gallery, backed up memory cards, and started work on the various stories over a dinner consisting of surplus ham sandwiches left over from lunch.

The commute home was somewhat thwarted by roadworks, before rolling in the driveway at 8:40pm.

Padlocking shut photo holes is entirely counter-productive.

Friday, March 22nd

6,358 photos, 23,642 steps, 17.97km walked, at track 6:20am – 8:00pm

Another 5:25am start saw a somewhat quicker Friday commute, with routing that took me the full length of the Monash.

After winning the race to the international media centre (F1 people are not morning people, as it transpires), and swinging into some work, it was time for a camera clean from Canon Professional Services, then time to go for an explore through the infield for content at the merchandise shops, then the Melbourne walk.

Cutting through the F1 paddock, it was to turn 13 for F3 practice.

I finished back at turn ten, where I posted the first gallery update of the day.

F2 practice was taken in from the same area, before attempting to walk back to the main stage for the F1 driver Q&A sessions – I realised I left my lens hood on the turn nine wall when I was halfway back across the chock-a-block full bridge over the back straight – looping back around provided a considerable waste of time.

When finally at the main stage, I navigated my way to the photo area at the front of the stage for RB, Williams, Aston Martin and Stake, with Valtteri Bottas judging a mullet competition – it was all great stuff, and something a lot of other photographers seemingly bypassed.

I dropped back to the media centre to file the F2 pics before stopping by the F1 paddock and taking in their opening practice from the pit exit, touring down to the inside of the track to turn four.

I filed from the front steps of the Victorian Institute of Sport before shooting F3 qualifying from the inside of turn five back to turn three, and filing.

The second Supercars race was then shot from the inside of the track from turn four back to turn one, I quickly filed in the media centre before scooting through the paddock to take in F1 FP2 from the outside of the final turn (14) back to the entry of turn 12.

Those pics were filed from a table out the back of the adjacent grandstand, before taking in F2 qualifying from turn 12 back to turn one, the same place I caught the start of the Carrera Cup race.

Polished off the day’s work in the media centre, tarted up Dale Rodgers’ commentary piece, then had a sneaky curry to a couple of Amy Shark songs at the main stage before getting home at 8:35pm, where some more work was finished on the laptop in bed.

Enter the madhouse: The Melbourne Walk…

Saturday, March 23rd

6,812 photos, 19,135 steps, 14.54km walked, at track 6:20am – 7:55pm

A slightly more leisurely departure from home at 5:35am, before rocking into the media centre to get on top of some work.

I cut a lap of the infield before heading down to the Supercars paddock to capture the scene of the crews getting ready for that morning’s twin qualifying sessions… just as it started to rain.

Fortunately, I packed an extra bag with all of my wet weather gear – it absolutely wasn’t used, but I certainly lugged it around all day long.

I shot the opening V8 qualifying from the outside of the track at turns 12 and 13, before moving to turn 14 for the second part.

After that, I migrated back to the Melbourne Walk, and got absolutely amongst the zoo of action – it was pretty wild…

Broke away from there to resume my place at the front of the main stage for the Ferrari, Red Bull, Haas, Mercedes and Alpine driver chats, which were just great.

I made it back to the fence just in time for the start of the F3 sprint, where I was able to cover from the inside of the track at turn two down to turn four.

After trekking to turn six, where I filed the first gallery of the day, it was time for F1 FP3, where the start was shot from the outside of the track, and the finish back on the inside, down near where Alex Albon went into the fence the day before.

Quickly filed those pics before crossing back to the outside of turn six for the start of the F2 sprint, which finished back at turn five.

Grabbed some exorbitantly priced chicken nuggets as I filed, before taking in the start of F1 qualifying from turn five, before moving back to turn three, and taking in the final leg from turn one.

I filed from the field before taking in the Supercars race at the same location and then retreating to the media centre to mop things up.

For Saturday and Sunday, the Grand Prix put on a buffet dinner for the media, which was hugely appreciated.

Walked to the car to the tunes of Jet, making it home once again at 8:35pm.

The main stage F1 driver shows were top-notch.


Sunday, March 24th

8,077 photos, 19,629 steps, 14.92km walked, at track 6:30am – 8:20pm

Rolled out of home at 5:40am before swinging into some work in the media centre, cutting a lap of the empty F1 paddock, before meandering over to the inside of the track at turn nine for the F3 feature race, making it back to turn 12 by the chequered flag.

Took in the Supercars finale from the inside of the track at turn 13 and 14 before winding up in the pits for the finish.

A walk down the F1 pit lane followed to the Supercars podium, and a hasty retreat to the media centre to start to file.

I made it to the pit exit tower for the start of the F2 feature, then headed off to turn two, before finishing off the filing work at the end of the race back in the media centre.

I went down to the track to shoot the F1 driver’s parade, which was a thorough shambles, before taking in some F1 pit stop practice, heading to the media centre before making it back to the grid for the pre-race F1 festivities.

Scooted down to turn one for the race start, and worked the area both sides of the start-finish straight, plus turns one-two on the inside before heading to the podium.

Dashed back upstairs at the conclusion of celebrations to start finalising everything, I took in the F1 presser, before ultimately rolling into the garage at home by 8:55pm.

A 5am wakeup followed so that the Power Rankings could be compiled into some sort of shape for the team to contribute to, before kicking off the workday proper.

Let’s do it again sometime, huh?

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