Monday, 30 May 2011

Super Sunday....

Qualifying certainly  didn't had everything..What looked like a horrific crash for Perez...coming out of the tunnel and losing control, smashing into a barrier side on...after a long delay, it appeared thankfully he was OK no broken bones but heavily concussed, so I believe he wouldn't be allowed to race the next day.  These modern cars construction are a testament to safety first.....incredible.
Once again I had access to the track side...the roads are so narrow..the speed of these cars shaving the just amazing....such speed I can't comprehend...
There is one straight I stayed for a while, behind me were all the boats with their guests..champagne and front, a huge towering grandstand packed..water and sun creme...very colourful..
It seemed that Hamilton didn't really have enough time to post a serious time after the crash delay..another mixed weekend of emotions for Mclaren...I'd love to be a fly on the wall in the inner sanctum of the Mclaren motor home..mind you...I think even flies wouldn't get past the security!!
Sat night caught the train to Nice...beautiful 20 minute journey along the coast .  I was met by an old friend Belinda whom I studied with whilst on an exchange in Baltimore.She drove up from Saint Tropez. Her friend in Nice had just bought a boat that we christened the boat with champagne..and a little trip...followed by a lovely meal in harbour restaurant.
Really was looking forward to the day...started well, after breakfast picked up my camera from my room waited for the lift..doors open with Schumacher and Vettel inside!....heading down to be taken to the track ..10 second lift ride with the old guard and new guard!
I can report that Vettel eats bread and cereal for brekkie...and probably raw meat!!
I went straight back to the Monaco Automobile Club  and finally managed to get the President to write a piece...he said that.. for him F1 is the greatest event in the Monaco you can times that by ten!
I would have been so disappointed if I had failed to get him to write...went into his plush office...trophies and wood polish everywhere!..
I then rushed back to paddock after a call from Williams that Patrick Head would be able to write his piece at 11.  Nice guy ...wrote about how special Monaco is to the team...although believing that Williams should have won more races than the 3.
Lovely Hospitality from Williams with Virgin Marussia, my next port of call to wait for Richard Branson..he was delayed by over an hour.
 Just a very brief time with him...he spoke about the great times in previous years he's had during the Grand Prix .
Then sprinted to the grid side...just arrived in time for the Grid walk  as all the grid girls were taking their place.
In a matter of moments the grid filled!...I'm amazed they weren't dragging people from under the they were pushed into their starting place....actually it's the big hand held TV cameras that pose the biggest danger...
I just had to look at the direction the cameras were all facing....often towards...Geri Halliwell...and an assortment of Celebrities...Boris Becker looked like he gave everything to a party the night before!
One thing...when we watch the race on TV...obviously we cant smell the engines firing up...and also the strong aroma of perfume!...quite a potent mix!...An interesting contrast...
We get 30 mins on the grid before we are ushered off...took some great close up pics of Hamiltom trying to keep cool...very hot day.
 Prince Albert's bride to be Charlene was the total centre of Attention...not sure how miss Halliwell felt about that!!
I walked around the track a little to catch the start of the race on one the massive screens dotted around.
With around 8 laps left queued up with photographers again to get a place opposite the podium...this is a unique race in many ways...not least the Podium...its pretty much on ground level...with a small stand erected opposite for photographers....tiny stand for so many!!!....I'm amazed I managed to get, not only into the stand but also a good has to be focused and as single minded as a driver!!
A beautiful and serene Royal podium as were the royal family...another great contrast to the excited..happy.. sweaty drivers...great scene..
 Across the big pond next to Montreal.....

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Monaco Magic...Sat

Race weekend has arrived...its incredible the amount of people that pour into this tiny principality.
Friday was no F1 car day, GP2 were racing in the morning...then in the afternoon the track is open to the public again...amazing operation ...around the famous Rascasse bend; masses of tables and chairs come out and a huge bar breaks out....on the track!  then it will all be cleared for racing again in the morning.
Just before the circuit was opened;;the 3 top gear guys were given access to the track, racing touring gear has a mass of clout these days!
Yesterday I managed to speak to the President of the Monaco Automobile Club, but he couldn't write...hopefully he will today.
Walked up to the Grimaldi Palace overlooking the whole circuit...quite a spectacular view!...a little toy town village up there.. I do keep thinking back to Thunderbirds!....even the castle doesn't seem real...somehow it seems to have less gravitas than other castles..
Big press day...not sure the drivers like these days.. they have to fulfill certain a number of obligations to sponsors...saw Button and Hamilton walking down the paddock with a model between them waving the chequered flag...then the photographers wanted the drivers to wave their this point I heard Lewis say....`Are you serious!!.....don't blame him...but then if I were being paid millions..I can wave my arms!
More big boats keep arriving ..they just keep squeezing them in..
Have a meeting at 12-15 with Richard Branson, writing his piece, should be fun. cant wait for qualifying at 2....

Friday, 27 May 2011

Monte Carlo or Bust......

Never has a saying been so true!....all or nothing here
Flew into nice ..(wed) .beautiful flying over the coast...St Tropez to Nice:
Travelled to Nice with  Mr Ecclestone`s PA......felt like I was landing into a set of Thunderbirds!...
Tracy Island...almost expected Thunderbirds 2 to fly overhead!
Checked into the very stylish Columbus Hotel, part owned by David Caulthard....  hotel window; overlooking the bay and pool...great start!
Went straight down to the circuit..lovey short walk; to find a state of chaos...motor homes still being erected...apparently the guys had been working during the night; its a tough back to back requirement, just a few days from Barcelona.
Its certainly a unique race....all the circuit open to public..whilst the authorities work on the surround...although it does look so chaotic..I know that all will come together....incredible!.
Thurs is a public holiday so the 1st and 2nd free practice take place...then Friday is a no car day...they then open the circuit to the public cars again;
Seeked out the offices of the Monaco Automobile Club who run and promote the race..;with all the barriers..its quite a feat of navigation finding these places!!
Hopefully will get its President to write some lines for me.
Ive lined up Richard Branson to write and Patrick Head from Williams over the weekend.
I have never seen such a massive concentration of Boats...super Yachts....with the sun glistening off their polished hulls...beautiful sight...think they will be competing with cars in my Monaco painting...
Found a lovely little seafood restaurant near the Hotel...sat near Rubens ...hes a man of good choice!

A day of Walking...The Formula 1 management gave me a photographers tabard, giving me full access to the track...what a treat..touching distance from the cars...great shots ...stunning buildings...Stunning zoom lens had not encountered such action before!!!
The famous bends, chicanes,hairpins and straights are so much indelibly linked to Motor racing history and really feels that..
Walked up to the Casino..somehow...barriers everywhere.  Met a friend Martin who lives here outside Cafe de Paris...very impressive; Nice Lunch..28 degrees and getting warmer..
The sound of the cars resonates all over around the hills....walked through the famous tunnel...even without the cars whizzing through the noise and vibration is still bone shattering!
The evening an invite to The Red Bull Party on their floating Motor Home in the Marina...huge!!  That was great. Spoke to a German Journalist who was keen to do an article about me and the commission perhaps during the German Grand Prix.
Around 10:30 we went to the Biggest Yacht in the Marina...VJ owner of Force India team hosted a big bollywood themed pleased to get an invite..lots of teams went...he does this every year..very much part of the Glamour of Monte Carlo ....waiting in line with invite...the top gear team jump the queue..Clarkson and May!!   They are hear filming for the program..apparently they are driving around the circuit later today(which is  Friday by the way)
Not many dressed in Indian gear..the champagne was flowing....
 Off to the Palace now to take pics....determined to get Prince Albert to write something...need help from Mr E with this one....

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Race day....sea of Red! would think it's a Ferrari convention.....looking across the circuit, great swathes of Ferrari red...all for one man of course. To say Alonso is worshipped here is an understatement!..Good business for Ferrari!
A very hot sunny day ..started the day with a glorious lemon smoothie...then a coffee in Ferrari motor home.
I had a walk around the F1 village with all the spectators gathering in anticipation... donning their huge Flags ...Catalan ...Ferrari and Spanish...they become costumes in this big open arena.
Back to the Paddock I was asked by one of the F1 communication guys.What I was doing ....they all see me around the paddock...think they though I was some kind of Spy...a plant!   I suppose in a way I am....a visual diarist.
With an hour to go before the race the tension builds's fascinating observing this..teams preparing last minute checks...the films crews take over the paddock at this's worse than the don't know where to walk....bizarre you get people people filming the TV presenters ..filming the teams!..some of these presenters are quite well know in their countries.
I'm sure my head has been shown in many countries!...I am getting better ..not walking between camera and presenter!
I like getting onto the Grid early just before the teams and cars enter...just the Grid girls...then the gates open and all the teams and dignitaries so busy and very hot...the track surface was extremely hot...the rubber on my shoes was starting to melt!....I was aware of leaving my rubber on the track!...
I managed to take some good pictures of the cars arriving to their Grid Positions...close up shots of Vettel and Button in their cars.
Great race again...I get to my position with all the photographers with around 5 laps to go...A long line waiting to rush to position under the Podium....A good shot of the 2 British Flags sandwiching the German....Think we may see this a lot!
Rush to the Airport.  Sat close to the BBC commentary team...Jake Humphreys had just learnt prior to take-off that they had just won a Bafta for their coverage....heard Jake shout as he passed through ' Anything to Declare'....''Nothing to declare...just a bafta!''
The Glitz and Glamour of Monaco next....Volcano Ash permitting!!!.....keeping an eye on this...I may have to start cycling now!

Quality Quali

So nice to walk a short distance to the circuit would have thought it was a race day by the
amount of people even at 9. A GP3 race stared around then..must be difficult to get motivated so early....I can't fire my engines without that first cup of coffee!
Went straight to the race organisers office....found Salvador the Circuits General Manager and Promoter.
He was delighted o be asked to write a short piece about his relationship with F1.
 Took me to his office in this amazing old farm house bang in the middle of the circuit...took some good pics of him writing. He wrote in Catalan....fantastic
Unfortunately the Chairman was less willing to collaborate for whatever reason.
Isabelle from Allsport - who run the paddock club granted me permission again to enter and find the Santander suite and UBS.  It's so difficult to get close to to the respective CEO's....what I have learnt is to be persistent....bordering on annoying...just stepping back from Pain in the..........
Everybody has a job to for me as an artist, discovering a side to me I didn't know was there..remarkable.....Who needs Galleries!.....with their 50% cut!
Hopefully will find the CEO's later or tomorrow.
The Paddock was buzzing..being so narrow creates a different atmosphere. Clocked Jackie Stewart in his Tartan trousers and obligatory cap!, he was chatting to Martin Blundell who is a race steward.
I'm getting sopped more in the Paddock asking how the painting is going...Monisha Ceo of Sauber racing, billowed across the Paddock  ...''Havn't forgotten.. don't worry...will write my piece later...''
   so nice..can't quite believe how these people in this high pressured environment are responding to this Art project....
Long day...Looking forward to tomorrow.  Having some Champagne in the Paddock Club with some guys from F1 Management..
 I met a Dutch guy who bought some of my work in Abu nice, he was keen on the new project. Big supporter of Red Bull...he got vettel and webber to sign my prints..

Friday, 20 May 2011

Gorged on Gaudi....

Arrived yesterday (thursday) morning, at 10. Great to report Ross Brawn , many of the BBC commentary team all sitting in the cheap seats on the plane.. Lovely new terminal greeting our arrival.. Driven to the hotel which is touching distance to the circuit....
Quick shower then driven to the city to meet an artist  friend Tommy.. studied here sometime ago...but a frquent visitor....acting as my guide...he was mightaly impressed by me arriving with my driver in a beautiful black merc!
First time in Barcalona...what a beautiful city, the.architectual .beauty left by Gaudi is astonishing!..a completly different experence seeing the buildings up close as opposed to images in books and online...the decorative tiles and mosaics are just incrediible....he was obviously ...mad as a box of frogs!...but a master in my book, curious thing though the spanish Gaudi foundation in their wisdom are adding huge sections to the Cathederal-Sagrada a syle they beleive complimentary to Gaudi....I say let it be!..dont touch!
 My Spainish panel maybe more of a homage to Gaudi...with layers of Formula 1...I think gaudi...with  his surreal notion of life..would appreaciate this fusion!!
A long day ending in a typical Catalan bar with some english artists who studied here 20 years ago and never went back!....lovely tapas and wine..

Friday Morning.
First impression of the Circuit de Catalunya...Great for spectators!...Fantastic vantage points ...natural hills ...big grass banks close to the track..and the cars....grandstands everywhere for all to far the best circuit so far for spectators, in my opinion.  First practice and already thousands of prople pouring in....pretty much all supporting Alonso and Ferrari... back to the circuit now to meet up with th General manager of the circuit, apparently the CEO´s of Santander (race sponsors)...UBS and Hublot watches are I have to find them!.....

Monday, 9 May 2011

Race Day

What a full, fun packed day...and the sun blessed the race too.
Arrived early 8-30, meeting with Silvia from Mclaren press office. Martin Whitmarsh wrote a very nice piece..quite profound..talking about his unswervable quest for perfection, a real insight.
All these written pieces can be read at the end of the season when they are integrated into the artwork.
The Motor Homes are an architectural marvel...each very different but all with such fine attention to detail..just like their cars, I guess this is why the F1 hospitality is the finest in the world.
After my visit to Mclaren and very nice cappuccino I dashed over to the offices of Allsport Management who are responsible for the Paddock Club Hospitality. Mr Ecclestone confirmed to me that the DHL (Race sponsors for Turkey) CEO Ken Allen was at the circuit.
Allsport kindly granted me a pass the DHL suite to meet him and to get him write a piece about the special relationship that exists between his company and F1.
I caught him somewhat by a way I think this is a good thing because what is written becomes an instinctual response, no time to prepare a corporate prepared piece.
Another dash to the Grid, the Grandstand was full, the Turkish fans were very vocal great to hear.
I took a great picture of Red Bull's Chief Engineer Adrian Newey taking a interested look at the rear of Alonso's Ferrari..which is ironic as the rear of the Red Bull cars are masked completely by the mechanics.
Poor grid girl collapsed and had to be carried away...not surprised ..their heels were like stilts!
Watched the race in the Sauber Motor home with Japanese TV crew...nice earl grey and some Chocolate...very civilised!
Great race...although I'm happy for Mr Vettel...I dont want his boat race to adorn all my paintings!
Another rush from the Podium to catch a car to the airport...nice people Turkish..
Spain next.....

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Turkish Delight.....

Firstly...I have renamed the capital Icetanbul!...10 degrees cooler than London.
This was a surprise. Wednesday night I stayed in a lovely chic boutique hotel W in a non tourist  part of Istanbul Spent the whole of Thursday walking around the city...what a delight..Topkapi Palace with its beautiful decorative Isnik tiles..this will form the base of my Turkish Panel...then the big Mosques.and more beauty within!
Also discovered the Grand Bazaar!...grand indeed..a labyrinth of market treasures..bought some great a good day was had and I forgot about the cold...or perhaps it was the Turkish chardonnay that erased this from my mind!
In the evening a driver took me to the Crowne Plaza Hotel near the circuit in Istanbul Park about an hour from the city on the Asian side.
All the teams are staying here as its the only hotel near the track.

Picked up at 8 bound for the circuit. I must say its great to have the teams stylish motor home back for the European races..they seem more welcoming..more user friendly. As does the paddock here/
the circuit is unusual as its anti clockwise...thus creating different challenges for the drivers with left hand turns/
I have a standard routine now..when I arrived I introduced myself to the Management ..CEO and Chairman.
The Chairman..Mumtaz wrote a nice piece for the artwork...he also said that he will introduce me to the Sports Minister on Sunday...the PM is not coming...having raised the bar somewhat with the Malaysian PM writing...its a little disappointing!!
Had a great chat with the Pirelli management,,promising to introduce me to their President on Saturday, very accommodating,,,never ...tyre...of meeting them!!....horrible pun!!!
Got back to the hotel,lovely meal with some of the Formula 1 management staff..then we retired to the bar. to be joined by John Button over 4 large glasses of wine, and many anecdotes about his son...I could have stayed all night...Jenson was certainly driven and single minded as an 8 year old, Karting.
At that age he told his father he wanted to be world F1 what went wrong!
His father certainly likes to indulge...lots of parties ...then a race breaks out!
Cant wait for Monaco!

Another early start,  received a message that the Pirelli President would meet me at 12.
He wrote about his warmth for the people involved in F1...very pleased with that!
Also I am another step closer taking prints from Pirelli tyres.../to be continued!........
Its so nice also that I feel more and more a fixture within the paddock...walking past Tony Fernandes and Eddie Jordan..both greeting me...I can get used to this..
There are murmurs that this could be the last Turkish GP for a while...allowing a slot for the US GP in Texas next year/
The race weekend hasn't captured the imagination of the Turkish people...not so well attended, thus far ...but perhaps tomorrow more may come. and the weather is improving!!...all bodes well for a great race!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Shanghai Surprise..

Belated China blog...
To my surprise, perhaps in hindsight not such a website and blog was blocked in China, pretty much all social networking in China is still blocked...I thought perhaps it was due to me being more of a subversive artist!...visual codes hidden within my butterflies and street lanterns!!
 Short 5 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Shanghai and same time zone.
 At the baggage carousel with Jenson Button behind me waiting for his luggage...another Shanghai surprise, my suitcase arrived before much for 1st class priority!
 Hundreds of screaming girls waiting for Button to emerge..quite surreal.
There was a girl holding a sign with my name  amongst these frenzied Chinese girls, a car was waiting for me to take me to the hotel,  infact I had cars and drivers ferrying me throughout the week...foreigners aren't allowed to hire cars in China.
 The journey to the hotel took 45 mins, there is a train from the Airport to the city...the fastest in the world, journey time 7 mins  20 seconds!
Spectacular circuit, towering stands with bright multi-coloured seats apparently to give a visual impression of seated people..clever.
On the Thursday afternoon after meeting the promoters of the race and CEO, I was able to walk the circuit, I must say this is such a treat, television can often 'flattern' a circuit...the amount of humps and hollows really surprised me...more respect for the drivers being tossed around the cockpit.
 The CEO wrote his piece for the artwork on the meetings with him were photographed, then I was photographed.. photographing him! Such great hospitality was afforded me by the event management, the CEO and his staff.
It was impossible to penetrate the bureaucratic layers of local government to get to the vice mayor of Shanghai, she awarded the trophy on the Podium. But they did say this could be done retrospectively.
The Paddock layout was extremely impressive although speaking to some of the teams they felt it was too long and wide..can't please everyone!
  The teams bases were built on stilts in a purpose built lake...the water wasn't moving...very still...wouldn't fancy dipping my toes in there!
There was a great feeling of anticipation I could sense in the Paddock with the new changes creating more possibilities for overtaking, also I feel the teams are wanting to see how the Pirelli tyres work in the rain...I wonder what the odds are are going through the whole season without rain!...worth a flutter....
We stayed in the Shanghai Sheraton..very nice hotel indeed!...huge 20 ft paintings in the lobby..very impressed by that.
Friday was spent in the City with a Tour guide and driver..he gave me with loads of facts...24 million people in Shanghai!....4 million cars....think we were stuck behind most of them!...too many cars..
A very modern City, most buildings have been built within the last 20 years, many great skyscrapers one in particular which was the tallest in the world until Dubai came in the equation. The architect is Japanese and my guide told  that the original design was to place a huge ball on top....but was changed before construction because apparently during sunsets the top of the building would resemble a Japanese flag!.....
A big British influence in early construction too, I was taken to some old temples...beautiful...great pictures....great juxtapositions of old and new.
It was quite a challenge taking pictures without people in shot!...
The qualifying was a good day, I spent a lot of time around the circuit village with the fans...very dedicated their flags!!   Lots of tickets touts..which surprised me being in China.
Race Day.
An amazing opening was like a mini Olympic opening ceremony....colourful dancers leaping out of huge circular floats...gymnastic manoeuvres..twirling ribbons.....
Managed to get onto the grid early again, beginning to feel more comfortable negotiating my way around the grid ...there ware a lot of people, press and TV waiting for Hamilton to appear, took some good pics of his mechanics speedily pushing his car to his slot with seconds to spare.
The race certainly didn't disappoint, managed to climb to the top of the Grandstand ..a good vantage point.
Rushed down just before the end to grab a spot below the Podium...another battle with the press-pack!..
'He who Dares Wins'...this must be the paparazzii motto!
.I'm making good progress with the 3 paintings to date ..2 weeks break has given me good time to crack on in the studio
Turkey next race...can't wait!