Analysis: The story behind the photograph that got F1 talking
When Formula 1 photographer Peter Fox went to the Degner curves to take some pictures during Friday free practice at the Japanese Grand Prix, he probably had no idea the stir he would cause a few days later.
His shot of Nico Rosberg’s fully-loaded Mercedes tearing through the first right hander soon started spreading around social media as fans – and key figures from the sport – heaped praise on what the image defined.
But its impact went truly global when Rosberg himself tweeted it to ask who the photographer was.
With 1.6 million followers, Fox’s image was retweeted an impressive 2,100 times and received 5,600 likes as it got people talking.
Here, Motorsport.com speaks to some key figures about how the photograph came about, and why it made such an impact.
PETER FOX: I was at Degner 1 for second free practice on Friday and I went there because I know the cars really load up going through a little compression. I have been there for a number of years before, and I have shots from earlier times, but never have I seen a car loaded up like that.
The other cars were going through on the same line but even the ones that were fully loaded up, the attitude of the cars was different – and you could see the front wheel rising in the air. What is particularly interesting is that the rear wheel is massively loaded up and the front wheel is still mostly on the ground. So their suspension is working well.
If you look at the next shot, which is out of focus, the car is the complete opposite. The suspension is raised and it’s like the car is momentarily off the ground there. It is amazing how it resets itself again.
A few days after the race, Nico put the picture up on Twitter and asked whose it was. I don’t know who initially got it out there, but Nico has a load of followers and once I was mentioned I had to turn my phone off because of all the notifications. It had been beeping and flickering all night.
When I woke up in the morning and started reading what everyone had been saying, it really showed the power of an image. I think Mark Gallagher wrote that this picture explains more than we could ever do with words, and that is what a photograph is all about.
NICO ROSBERG: It is an awesome picture – picture of the weekend. It is seldom that you see the forces in an F1 car so clearly on a photograph. It was a special capture – very impressive. Even the tyre was deforming and everything. It was amazing – and it was a normal lap. It wasn’t like something specific happened – it was just like a normal lap.
PADDY LOWE: It is great to see a photograph capture an F1 car on the limit. It is a very dramatic photograph. These cars do see incredible loads and if you see some of the pieces being tested in the laboratory at the loads we know they are designed for and the loads they see, the deformation can be really quite shocking. It is quite educational for engineers to see that for real. But that is what happens.
I think it has captured a specific moment, as the left rear tyre is particularly stressed at that point. We can see how the whole sidewall if distorted and I am sure there is a dynamic there in the way the camera has just caught the peak of that, making it look particularly extreme.
I think sometimes we take it a bit for granted the performance of these cars, and they can sometimes look a little bit tame. But there is some very tough stuff going on there, day in and day out – if only we can keep on showing it. That is why it is important for the TV to continue to work in ways that shows us that.
MARIO ISOLA: Usually we see this kind of tyre deformation from the data, and we have to take in to account the lateral forces, we see the compression, we see the standing waves – a lot of parameters working on the tyres. Then when you see a picture like that, it has a different effect. I was also watching some images on the monitor today and you see the deformation of the tyre. It is quite impressive and something that we know, and something we consider in our simulation.
But in the image it is really extreme. But I can imagine that if you take the right picture – for example in the Eau Rouge compression – you can see something very similar to that, or at the end of a straight.
This photograph is a good item to show everybody that the forces acting on the tyres of F1 cars are really, really extreme. So when we are talking about increasing by 1 or 2PSI the pressure, you can easily understand from here. We need air inside the tyre to support this kind of stress.
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