In a normal context, whenever one writes about film, it usually comes with the type of messaging that promotes slowing down. You know, ‘take in the moment’, ‘savour the frame’, ‘produce something considered and mindful’. Sorry, but I think that’s an overused cliché. You can live fast and shoot film.

To prove this point, over the weekend, I was tossed the soon to be launched Fujifilm INSTAX mini 99 camera by team Esquire to cart around on my journalistic adventures at the Australian Grand Prix—one of the fastest and most action-packed weekends on the Australian sports calendar. The directive? Find the moments. This particular INSTAX instant film camera is a new matte black analogue model with exposure control to capture all the vibes from day to night, dual shutter buttons (for landscape and portrait shots) as well as “Macro Mode” to capture an all-important selfie in the wild. Best of all, it comes with six LED colour filters to playfully shoot retro or elevate your photography game.

While there was little time to watch the photos develop and fuss around amongst the craziness of Albert Park, there was plenty of room for happy human surprises to discover later. What I did learn is that while yes, an analogue camera captures moments, the ritual of instant film creates them too. For every fan I met and photographed, I gave away one or two photos for them to remember, and in a setting like a race day where community, belonging and a lust for life is at the centre, instant film just hits different. Over the course of the race weekend, I took over 120 shots, walked more than 20,000 steps a day (once in heels, RIP me) and spoke to I don’t know how many people. And beyond the grid chat, everyone wanted to talk about capturing moments for keeps.

Here are some of the 12 best moments of the race. 

Safety car sighting

This year saw the debut of the new Aston Martin Vantage safety car—which is such a pretty car. It’s meaty too—powered by a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and 0-100km/h dash of 3.4 seconds. Alas, I took the shot of the Aston while it was sitting there, awaiting deployment ahead of the race using a light blue filter to match the hue of the car.

There’s always a lot of focus placed on the open-wheelers, of course, but I will talk about safety cars and how much fun it would be to drive them, because they need to be of a certain calibre—responsive, fast, focused and of course it has to have excellent handling and power. One of my favourite things to watch is when a safety car is called and you watch Bernd Mayländer—who has been the F1 safety car pilot for more than two decades—just hammer his way around the track, all twenty F1 cars trailing behind, at a speed slow enough to be safe but fast enough so that the F1 cars don’t loose too much tyre temp. It’s quite a masterful thing to watch. Of course, because a safety car can make for a very cheap and easy pit stop, Pit Lane can get very busy, and chaotic. It’s these moments you start to see the teams scramble into action and things in Pit Lane can get very interesting.

Shifting demographics

Here’s a fun fact about the Australian Grand Prix statistics: 39 per cent the sold-out attendance at this year’s race had never actually been to a race before, and they’ve skewed younger and female. Globally, a Grand Prix can attract around 32 per cent of female-identifying fans, but at the Australian Grand Prix, that number was averaging round 39 per cent, according to the organisers I spoke to on the ground. This made for lots of fun, trackside fits (including homemade Swiftie-like fan bracelet swaps), more engaging fan community moments and plenty of new activations around the GP—we love to see it.  

The Driver’s Parade

I took these two photos during the Driver’s Parade, which takes place around two hours before the race. This is a really sweet fan moment as the drivers are chauffeured around the track and wave at the fans, the drivers love it because they get to really see and engage with the trackside crowd. The atmosphere is alive with anticipation, and there’s this buzzy sense of community togetherness—this is why you come to a race, for the element, no? Just before the parade, these grid kids were all lined up to celebrate the drivers and it was adorable how excited they were to be involved, they were trying to be professional while bursting at the seams to see their heroes in the flesh.

All that said, the hilarious backstory to these two photos is that I was lined up with all the other media—journalists taking notes, TV crews, a couple of YouTubers—that kind of thing, but for some reason I managed to end up in the middle of all the professional photojournalists who had multiple cameras with lenses as big as one of these grid kids attached, all very seasoned and serious. And there was little me, standing on the grid, right in front of the crowd, in a sea of very professional media, with my small yet mighty INSTAX in hand snapping away in Sports Mode, armed with the camera’s shoulder strap and precision-milled tripod mount—a most handy grip when the pressure is on—as support, before shovelling my shots into my pocket before they could develop. Maybe it was my sheer overconfidence at play, but one of the Japanese photographers came over and looked at my little camera, nodded in approval and took me under his wing to join the rest of the tribe and I was corralled into the sea of photojournalists—even though I wasn’t sure if I was actually meant to be there. Look, today we learned, even in the most serious of photographic scenarios, everyone loves instant film cameras.

A Pit Lane visit

Look, I’ll be real here. When I took this photo, I was in the pits on a mission to find and photograph Hot Ferrari Mechanic (real name: Alessandro Fusaro), who became a fan favourite last year. And while I couldn’t spot him in Charles Leclerc’s garage, I was pleasantly surprised when I walked over to find the Ferrari team performing this practice pit stop ahead of the race. I never got an Instax of Fusaro, but seeing the team in full race gear doing their thing around what would be Carlos Sainz’ winning car is an even better moment. As for the Mercedes, I still think it’s the meanest looking car on the grid. And sure, I do love Adrian Newey’s designs for Red Bull, there’s something so bad ass about the all-black silver arrows that elicits that feeling of horns growing out of one’s head.  

An off-track battle

For a few years now, there’s been an off-track battle for who can do the hottest VIP hospitality between Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari (and more recently Red Bull has upped its game too). Sure, I’m a card-carrying Tifosi, so probably biased, but this is my story and I’m making the statement that Casa Ferrari wins every year, no question. Designed to look like an Italian modernist mansion, the three-story building is magnificent. Inside, the attention to detail is exquisite—everything is stamped with a cavallino and there’s a wood fired pizza bar, pasta bar, gelato cart, charcuterie corner, a DJ and vibes running overboard. There’s also options: a quiet place to watch the race on the lower floor, two levels of excitable Tisofi hanging off the balcony, or you can sit in the piazza area by the track in the sunshine. Every year, the Prancing Horse will also bring the hottest, newest, latest offering out from its Maranello stable. This year, the mega SF90 XX Stradale held court, which I had to spend some time manifesting in, naturally. *pins photo to vision board*   

Forza Ferrari

Speaking of the Scuderia, when it became evident that there might be a chance for a Ferrari one-two, I sprinted from the paddock to Casa Ferrari because, there was nowhere else to be and when it comes to celebrating, Italians do it better. While the Scuderia is the most successful team to have raced at Albert Park, it had been twenty years since Ferrari took home a one-two, so the absolute scenes at the Casa were popping OFF—literally. As the checkered flag waved Carlos Sainz into first, and Charles Leclerc into second, and the Casa exploded into a ‘Forza Ferrari’ chant, champagne was sprayed all around the garden and off the top two stories of the building and a dance floor of red erupted around the SF90 XX Stradale. I managed to run back to the paddock just in time for the trophy ceremony and to catch Sainz standing in front of his winning car doing his interviews. For a man without a seat next year, who only two weeks ago had undergone appendix surgery (!!!!) it was a wild and lovely moment to witness—and capture in film.

At the press conference afterwards, when asked if he thought this win improved his position to get a seat for 2025, Sainz spoke like a true future world champion, “I think everyone knows more or less what I’m capable of doing,” he said. “I race for myself. I race to keep proving to myself that I can win whenever I get a competitive car and whenever there’s an opportunity to win in a weekend. I don’t race to prove to team principals or to prove to people my value. I race to prove to myself that if I’m given a car, I can get it done and I can be up there.” Forza Ferrari.  

The INSTAX mini 99 will be available from Thursday 4 April at leading retailers Australia-wide.
RRP $279.00


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