Photographer Darren Heath on 10 Years of His Favorite Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Images
Heath has been covering the #AbuDhabiGP since the inaugural race in 2009 and offers a personal retrospective of his impressive and striking work.
1. The climax of almost every Grand Prix is the celebrations of the winning driver, so I’m always keen to capture the emotion of the moment. Here Nico Rosberg clenches his fists in a joyous punching of the air in recognition of his 2015 Abu Dhabi race victory. Yas Marina Circuit’s fantastic firework display providing a suitably stunning backdrop.
2. Everyone who follows Formula 1® is aware of the impressive architectural delight of the Yas Hotel Abu Dhabi. Spanning the twisting and turning street track-like section of the Circuit, the building provides a visual treat for the photographers present. Here you see Fernando Alonso thundering underneath the hotel during the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
3. I’ve always enjoyed photographing Formula 1® cars at very slow shutter speeds. It’s a tricky technique to master but when one gets the smooth motion of the camera and lens perfectly matched to the velocity of the car in frame the results — especially under Yas Marina Circuit’s floodlights — can be wonderful. This blur of colourful highlights is Lewis Hamilton racing his Mercedes during the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
4. For about five minutes at the very start of the second session of the day a few of Yas Marina Circuit’s corners are lit with the orange glow from the setting sun. Positioning myself at one of these corners during practice for the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix I hoped to capture a special photo. As Nico Rosberg rounded the turn, highlights glinting off the Silver Arrow’s bodywork, I knew I had a winning shot!
5. Of course so much of photographing the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is about the sunset/night time nature of the event but the cars do spend two practice sessions running in daylight conditions. This can make for interesting pictures especially when the cars pass underneath the Yas Hotel Abu Dhabi, just like the one you see here of Jenson Button in his world title winning Brawn car during the 2009 race weekend.
6. The 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will always be remembered as the race where Fernando Alonso missed the chance to become the Formula 1® drivers’ World Champion for the Scuderia. Poor pit stop strategy by the Italian team handed the race to the young Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel. Here you see the dejected, disconsolate Alonso walking into the FIA garage as the new world champion arrives to claim the prize.
7. No other race track on the planet can match the architectural splendour of Yas Marina Circuit; the venue’s impressive Grandstands framed as they so often are by a stunning orangey to red to purple to black desert sunset sky. Positioning myself at the bottom of the slope towards the exit of the pit lane the approaching cars appear as classic Formula 1® car shapes
8. Depending on the colours being displayed, the twinkling lights of the Yas Hotel Abu Dhabi can work very well with the colourway of different Formula 1® cars. During the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix the blue, red and yellow of the lights complemented the very similar colours adorning Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull car. The picture is particularly difficult to capture as one sees the cars very late meaning any delay in framing the shot and pressing the shutter release means the photo is lost.
9. Everyone loves a flypast! It’s now become a tradition that with 15 minutes until lights out and the start of the race a stunning air display featuring Etihad’s Airbus 380 escorted by the Fursan Al Emarat aerobatic display team salutes the Grand Prix grid below. A suitably stunning purple-hued sky provided a visually arresting scene for the 2017 show.
10. As fans of Formula 1® will know, the reigning world drivers’ champion, Lewis Hamilton, races with the number 44. In 2015 the UAE proudly celebrated the country’s 44th National Day so Lewis Hamilton sported a special helmet displaying both his official number and the host nation’s special anniversary.
11. Team celebrations can offer the Formula 1® photographer some special opportunities for interesting pictures. Taking a gamble, I climbed to the very top tier of the pit lane Grandstand and hoped to get something a little different of Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull team celebrating the German driver’s title victory. As luck would have it the Circuit authorities switched off the pit lane lights at just the right time resulting in way more dramatic lighting than there would have otherwise been. My gamble paid off!
12. Looking for all the world like a scene from a David Lean blockbuster movie, classic silhouettes of Bedouin tents stand in front of a perfect bright yellow setting sun providing a stunning backdrop to the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton as he races towards this wonderful vista during the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
13. I’ve always been a fan of race circuit venues that use the areas that surround the track in a creative manner. Colourful lines, shapes and designs can really add to the overall spectacle of a grand prix venue so you can imagine my joy when I first saw the brilliant way Yas Marina Circuit’s designers had utilised their track’s kerning and run-off areas. Here you see Kimi Raikkonen slicing his way through the designs during the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend.
14. Fernando Alonso’s orange, black and white McLaren looks stunning bathed in the light of an Abu Dhabi sunset during qualifying for the 2017 event at Yas Marina Circuit. 'Light and the patience to wait for it’, is a mantra I firmly believe in so when all the elements combine to produce a visually arresting image, I couldn’t be happier.
15. Kimi Raikkonen races hard as he heads underneath the Yas Hotel Abu Dhabi during the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. This is a tricky shot to shoot as the photographer — due to the surrounding fences — is unable to pan the camera with the motion of the car. Capturing the setting sun and a perfect starburst highlight off the Ferrari only adds to my happiness with the picture you see here.
16. Standing atop his Red Bull car Sebastian Vettel salutes the crowd after winning the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the stunning Yas Marina Circuit. Winning here in 2009 was the perfect way to finish the season and set him up perfectly for championship victory just one year hence.
17. Positioning myself on a balcony overlooking the Circuit, the gorgeous shadows created by the lattice work shroud of the Yas Hotel Abu Dhabi provided a wonderful palette on which to photograph the passing Formula 1® cars during practice for the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Light and shade are elements the creative photographer should always be on the lookout for. During the F1® season no other venue provides so many such opportunities as Yas Marina Circuit.
18. Daniel Riccardo’s Red Bull car races past the complementary colours of the foreground lights. Choosing a vantage point I’d not photographed from previously, I waited for qualifying to begin for the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Noticing the lights in the foreground I practiced some very slow shutter speed pan shots and liked the streaks that resulted. Repeating the same shot as the cars passed, I’m glad I ventured to somewhere new!
19. I’ve always been interested in architecture so a trip to photograph Formula 1® cars racing around the visually impressive Yas Marina Circuit is always a treat. Every year that passes it’s of paramount importance that I try to see different photographic opportunities to previous years. For one of the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice sessions I secured access to a balcony I’d not previously shot from. The resulting capture you see here is one of my favourites of the year.
20. Turning on my heels and running away from the throng of photographers snapping the new drivers’ World Champion may seem like a foolhardy choice. Prior to Nico Rosberg being hoisted high by his mechanics I decided to gamble on getting the shot you see here. The feeling of elation I get when a shot comes together in the viewfinder makes all the effort worthwhile. Shot ‘in-the-can’ I turned away and punched the air every bit as hard as the celebrating Mercedes driver!