George RUSSELL, Budapest/Hungary, 2019

Hungary for power

I decided to focus on F1 after I had split my efforts between it and MotoGP. I did 6 races and one test in 2018 - 3 each with MotoGP edging slightly ahead due to a day of testing after the season finale at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo race track. So in 2019 I was all Formula 1. We started with Monaco, then Austria, followed by three successive races - Hungary, Belgium and Italy. The sixth and final race would be the season finale at Abu Dhabi at the very end of November.

My chief editor at the magazine has been to the Hungaroring probably more times than there was an F1 race there, so he wasn’t too keen on going and on top of that his usual family vacation was during that week so he wouldn’t come. What I did was to badger the living hell out of my colleague and editor from the magazine Svetlana to come with me. Joining us was a very funny and cool kid that I had as a new colleague at my other job - Bilyana who we shall call BB for the remainder of the story.

Reaching the track was pretty straightforward - it was going to be by driving, it’s a no brainer. 7-800 km from home and we would need a car there anyway. But what car? My trusty old Skoda of course! But is it up for it or will I suffer a DNF mid-race? Better check! 1000 bucks later the car is ready, all the issues with tampons, fuel pumps and what not are fixed and the car is ready to go! As usual we leave on Wednesday after work. The end of the workday arrives and me and BB hop in the car. But the thing won’t start?! The battery? We measure it.

“It seems fine."

We jump start it with cables.

"Ah, I probably forgot the radio or something. No big deal.”

Famous last words, as a colleague would say. Anyway, we leave, we pick up Svetlana from her home and we GO! We passed the Serbian border relatively fast - meaning it took only an hour or so and off we went. As none of the ladies is driving, the pleasure was all mine. At one point, close to the Hungarian border I made a pit stop for a coffee refill. Got the coffee, got in the car and guess what?! The ******* battery is dead! Perfect! 1k in, all systems checked! Well almost all systems checked. Most systems checked? Anyway. After a brief meltdown I head to wake up a sleeping Serbian truck driver up to ask for a jump start. He was kind enough to help and we were on our way in no time. But what drained the battery? Is it the battery? Or it’s the alternator?! Man, let it not be the alternator! I tried to minimise the power consumption of the car in order for the alternator to charge the battery for when we reach the Hungarian border. A hail Merry, I know, but what else could I do? We got to the border and somehow managed to get through without stopping the engine, even though one of the border patrol men advised me to do so. And we are off! Next stop the place we are staying to drop the luggage and BB. We had to stop to get a vignette for Hungary. That was the moment of truth! Will it start? Yyyyyeeeeeeaaaaah... no. Damn. Now what do we do? There is a camper with a Bulgarian registration plate and all of the guys in it are dressed with Valentino Rossi gear. Great! Racing people! We manoeuvred the car around by pushing to align the batteries of the two vehicles and started the poor Skoda. After that my mantra was “let there be a decent hill near the house” so that I’m gonna be able to start the car that way. And so, there was! But wait, there’s more! We were greeted by a very friendly and kind host that despite the language barrier understood that there is something wrong. Thanks to the modern technologies and Google translate in particular we were able to communicate what the issue was. She called someone. Two men came, invited me on the back seat of an old E-Class Mercedes and started driving. Soon they brought me to an old guy’s backyard where he opened his garage and there was a car battery heaven! €90 later we were on our way back to the house. So after all of this me and Svetlana made it to the track. Pretty straightforward travel to a Grand Prix, don’t you think? I loved the track. The facilities are a world away from places like the Red Bull Ring, but it’s Formula 1, it’s racing and I love it to bits! I got to witness history too!

Mick SCHUMACHER, Budapest/Hungary, 2019

Mick Schumacher, the son of my racing hero that drew me to all this madness, won his first Formula 2 race and I actually went around to shoot it as a form of investigation to how to shoot the main event. It was 13 years ago when on that very same track I saw Formula 1 live for the first time. And what a race that was! But again, a story for another day! The race itself was very interesting and tense! Max led towards the end but Lewis caught him and was all over him. I was trying to figure out where the overtake will happen and I had my bets on turn two. Beside me was one of my photography heroes - Darren Heath. I couldn’t be at the wrong place if he is shooting beside me, right? Svetlana was keeping us in the loop to what was happening in the race and how many laps there were left since there was no screen around us. I had that feeling that it’s not going to happen here though. Lewis was never close enough. I was thinking of running to turn one but decided against it because I was seeing a lot of overtakes before me and the run to the podium was shorter from T2. Guess what?! Lewis overtook Max at turn one and won the race. I did beat myself up a bit but not too much. At least it was fun!

44 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes ,  33 Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Hungary, 2019

I shot the podium, I sent some photos to Svetlana, she posted the story. All done, now let’s go home! We picked up BB from the city and off we went. Little did we know what was waiting for us at the border. Now usually the bad thing with the Hungarian Grand Prix is that it is in the middle of the summer holidays and the border is jammed beyond belief. We spent half a clutch and at least four hours that felt like an eternity. We managed to get through but it was so late and I was so crushed from running around the track all day so we decided to sleep a bit in Serbia. After a shot pit stop we were back on the road and safely home. Comfortably late for work. There was that moment in which I realised I had forgotten my monopod in the press room but this story is getting too long already. Sadly all this would feel hugely meaningless with what happened during the following race at Spa...

Anthoine Hubert, Budapest/Hungary, 2019
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