Formula One by its very nature thrives on routine. The drivers train by driving thousands of times around the same tracks or on simulators and pit stops are practised an equally mind-boggling number of times. This routine even extends to many of the sport's ancillary initiatives such as its charity fund-raising efforts which usually involve drivers signing portraits of themselves or their helmets and overalls. That all changed last month with the première of an innovative new project called Zoom which has never before been attempted in any sport, let alone F1. Fans now have a chance to see what all the fuss was about.
Zoom was the brainchild of Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt and it is run by his F1 business consultancy Formula Money along with Influence the marketing company started by Alistair Watkins, son of F1's former chief medical officer, the late Sid Watkins.
Sylt figured that rather than auction off signed photos of the drivers for charity, it would be more interesting for them to take photos themselves and sign them in order to raise funds. Sylt got Great Ormond Street Hospital on board as the charity partner and F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone endorsed it. Armed with this, Sylt used his contacts to get all the drivers and team bosses to provide photos of whatever they wanted and the end result was eye-opening.
Pitpass is a media partner of Zoom and as we reported, the photos in the auction gave a genuine insight into the private lives of the drivers. They ranged from Jenson Button's view of the pit wall to Mark Webber's pet dogs and the view from Peter Sauber's lounge window. They were auctioned off at a gala event last month with around 200 guests in attendance including Damon Hill, Eddie Jordan, James Hunt's brother David, photographer Keith Sutton, FOTA's secretary general Oliver Weingarten, Red Bull Racing's head of brand Anthony Ward and representatives of some of the wealthiest team owners in F1. In addition, there were wealthy collector types and flying the flag for celebrity F1 fans were former England footballer Ledley King and Dragon's Den star Duncan Bannatyne.
The photos sold on average for £450, the best-seller being Schumacher's driver's eye view from the seat of his Mercedes in the pits.
The seven-time World Champion said "I am delighted that my 'the office' photograph fetched so much for this very worthwhile cause. The image encapsulates F1 for me; the cockpit is where I feel completely at home and everything else is second nature. Great Ormond Street Children's Charity has a strong link to our sport and I was glad to be able to support them through the Zoom auction."
His photo went for a whopping £2,500 with several potential buyers in the room being driven up by a phone bidder from California who eventually got the photo. Although this is likely to be out of the price range of the average fan, there is now an affordable way to get a piece of the action.
Dennis, the publisher of motoring magazines such as Octane and Evo, has recently released the licensed Zoom book which contains all the photos taken by every F1 driver and team boss as well as an introduction written by Ecclestone. The book comes in A4 format and is officially known as Through the eyes of Formula 1: Personal images and insights from the stars of F1 Racing.
The photo (above) may look like a school prize-giving but is in fact the handover of the first edition from Sylt to Ecclestone. Following the handover Ecclestone signed the page with his photo on it and over the coming months every F1 driver and team boss will follow suit. When all the pages have been signed the book will be sold at the 2013 pre-British Grand Prix auction which is also in aid of Great Ormond Street. The next Zoom auction in F1 will then take place in autumn 2013 and Sylt and Watkins are also branching the concept of athletes taking photos for charity out to other sports.
Short of owning the photos themselves, the book's A4 pages are the best way to spot the intricate details in them. You don't need deep pockets to buy it as the standard edition of the book costs £20 and went on sale last week in book shops worldwide with WHSmith and Waterstone's being the main stockists in the UK. In addition there is a leather-bound version which can only be ordered online and is limited to a print run of 250 copies. It costs £75 which may seem a lot but is a snip compared to another F1 book which has been getting coverage recently.
During the Indian Grand Prix a huge book called the F1 Opus was launched at the whopping cost of £2,000 each. The book tells the history of F1 through photos so it is far from unique in that respect. However, at 37kg it is certainly heavier than your average tome. It was due to be launched five years ago and, since then, the company which was originally due to publish it, Kraken Opus, went bust after a shortfall in funding. Two days after going into voluntary administration it was bought back by its owners including Karl Fowler a former Goldman Sachs derivatives and tax expert who, in 2005, set up the business that owned Kraken Opus.
The Zoom book is due to have an official launch after the end of the F1 season and Pitpass readers will soon get an opportunity to win copies of it in a competition. Anyone who has a personal favourite photo can also order prints of them from F1 memorabilia specialists Memento Exclusives. Our personal favourite, due to the sheer oddity of it, is Vitaly Petrov's photo of a giant earth-mover though we suspect it may not prove to be the most popular. Time will tell.
Check out the entire collection of pictures in the Zoom gallery, here.