Photographer Philip Sinden reveals fashion luminary Lucy Yeomans’ hidden need for speed by trailing her to Spa for the Belgian leg of this year’s Formula One racing season. Taking the wheel of Mercedes-Benz’s latest supercar, the SLS AMG Gullwing, the Harper’s Bazaar UK chief and her colleague Jo Glynn-Smith revved their way across Europe’s highways along with the guys from Top Gear, Radio 1 and Autocar magazine to join the glamorous jet set imbibing champagne in the drivers’ enclosure. Famously offered the helm of Bazaar on her first day as Deputy Editor of Vogue, the celebrated journalist’s love affair with fast cars comes second only to her obsession with fashion. Here Yeomans shares her diary of a thrilling weekend.
5.30pm: Our first set of wheels is dropped off outside the Bazaar offices; you only have to lightly paw the accelerator and the Mercedes CLS 63 AMG squeals like a Formula One car.
7.00pm: Driving to Kent where I and co-pilot Jo Glynn-Smith, Bazaar’s Retail Editor, are staying the night to meet our second car [the Mercedes Gullwing] so we can get a scarily early Eurostar the next morning. I frequently find myself drifting up to 100mph (which feels like a sedentary 50mph), the CLS's powerful V8 engines roaring as I turn on the Sports+ mode.
4.30am: In the courtyard below my bedroom window the CLSs have been replaced by five sleek and seriously sexy Mercedes SLS AMG Gullwings in red, black and white, their distinctive top-opening doors making them look half-bird, half-car. We are all buzzing with excitement about the drive ahead, although we know the men are wondering what on earth these two fashion girls are doing here at all.
6.10am: Gliding in convoy onto the Eurostar shuttle, it feels as if we are taking part in a super charged sci-fi remake of the Italian Job.
10.20am: Once in Belgium we’re anxious to outpace the boys; we put our black Gullwing through its paces Top Gear-style on the relatively empty and straight Belgian motorways.
1.00pm: Arriving at the circuit we are met with a rapturous reception. Motor sport fans clamor round the car, taking photographs and waving their flags—even red Ferrari ones—every time I rev the engine. This is how it must feel to be Gisele turning up at the launch of the annual Sports Illustrated swimwear issue.
1.30pm: Despite the rain, the atmosphere in the paddock is electric, and television crews gather around seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher's garage. This race marks his 20th anniversary in Formula One, and we are invited to attend a party in his honor at the Mercedes motor home later that afternoon.
2.00pm: Watching the qualifying from McLaren HQ with two of the BBC commentary team, Eddie Jordan and Jake Humphreys. We are all shocked as Schumacher crashes out in the first session, which means he'll start the race from the very back of the field. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel takes the coveted pole position, with Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber hot on his heels.
4.00pm: Schumacher is in buoyant form at his party despite his earlier poor result. Fellow drivers Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Rubens Barrichello turn up to feast on bratwurst and lager, but with a race to be won the next day everyone drifts off by eight o'clock.
7.30am: We all leave the hotel together to arrive at the circuit in a convoy, but after losing Radio 1’s red car to a wrong turning the temptation to enjoy a nice stretch of open road is too much and we quickly sail off. When we arrive at the circuit, team Top Gear gamely come over to congratulate us on being "the fastest women we've ever met."
9.00am: Excited to be invited to watch the race from inside Schumacher's garage, something I've never done in all my years of attending races in Barcelona, Silverstone, Bahrain and Monaco.
1.00pm: The noise of the cars in the garage is incredible. We are handed Mercedes team headphones and radios to both protect our ears and allow us to listen in to the Mercedes team talking to their two drivers, Schumacher and Nico Rosberg. We are also given individual iPads so we can follow our drivers' progress in close detail.
2.00pm: The race—Rosberg has a blistering start to lead early on as Schumacher works his way expertly through the field from the back of the grid. After Hamilton crashes out on lap 13 after one of his typically risky and daring manoeuvres, the McLaren team’s hopes are pinned on Button.
3.30pm: A few laps from the end, Button finds himself behind Schumacher and, after executing a brilliant pass on both him and his teammate Rosberg ahead, slots into third place. With the two Mercedes drivers racing each other, Schumacher, the more experienced German, finally makes the pass at the final corner of the penultimate lap.
4.00pm: The Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel takes victory as expected, followed by his teammate Mark Webber––but it's still a "good day in the office for Jenson and Michael," as commentator and ex-Formula One driver David Coulthard tells me later.
4.30pm: With the podium celebrations over and the sun beginning to set over the Spa countryside, we set off for the tunnel. As soon as my foot touches the accelerator the Gullwing screams into action for its final journey. I know this is probably the closest I'm going to get to feeling like a Formula One driver for quite some time.