'I'm going to have to be a little bit unprofessional' i said, 'My wife and i watched you at Monza last year (Italian Grand Prix) and i was wondering if you might be happy to sign my ticket for me?'. That geekiness was met with a smile and the words 'of course!'.
I've been a huge Formula 1 fan for many years, watching such greats as Ayrton Senna & Nigel Mansell in my youth (apparently my youth is a past tense thing these days) and it was a huge honour to be asked to photograph an event for BT & the Williams Martini Racing Team. Once i discovered i would be working with one of the drivers, to say i was childishly excited would be a huge understatement.
Felipe Massa, former Ferrari and current Williams F1 driver was to be the special guest, along with IT/Technical staff from the team, to discuss the benefits that have been achieved by BT and Williams in partnership. It was a fantastic insight into the logistics and systems in place to assist Formula 1 teams in challenging for the Championship. Certainly, most of these crucial elements might be overlooked by the casual observer, but they clearly help maintain the smooth and consistent running of the team and the 650 staff within it.
While guests mingled, i needed to take some shots of Felipe in various locations, thus meaning we spent 15/20 minutes together. I didn't think i'd get the chance of a handshake let alone a 15 minute, casual chat and an autograph. Obviously, professionalism is paramount and i would never have asked for such a gesture had he not been so approachable and at ease, but he really was a pleasure to talk to.
The remainder of the evening saw interviews with both Felipe, IT director Graeme Hackland and BT's head of Commercial Business, whilst partners and clients had a delicious meal (which i too very thankfully enjoyed). All this, looking out from the top of the BT Tower in London, all lit up on a clear but windy night (and yes, the tower moves in the wind).
It was a reminder of how fortunate i am in my work and how grateful i am too for people giving me the chances to then be able to work with such companies and individuals. As a parting gift, Mr Massa made the effort to say goodbye to me, something which really set him apart as someone who genuinely cares about fans and those who express honest enthusiasm for the sport.
My wife isn't going to want to watch any races with me now.
Darren Lovell Photography 2015
All images copyright Darren Lovell Photography 2015