|Life Through A Lens: 2016
Mark Sutton talks ESPN through his favourite images from each round of the 2016 season
I saw Lewis Hamilton coming into the paddock on Friday before FP1. He was talking to his trainer and then picked up his phone and started to film for Snapchat. He actually got told off for doing this as he was warned about it in Australia — FOM is very strict on filming in the paddock and those rules apply for everyone, even a three-time world champion. Lewis actually tried to get this shot twice and I thought I would get behind him rather than join the crowd of photographers, capture a shot within a shot if you like. It just looks nice and shows the sort of attention a driver like Hamilton gets when he arrives in the paddock.
Personally I think FOM would be wise to lower those restrictions on drivers filming in the paddock, you just need to look at the followers Hamilton has on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to understand how it could help increase interest in the sport.
This was one of the key moments of the race and pretty dramatic. You get plenty of time to see them coming down the backstraight in China when standing where I was and the tyre actually blew out with quite a way to go. This shot is good as you’ve got Ricciardo trying to navigate the turn and keep an eye on his mirrors, he needs to get on the inside to pit at the next corner but he’s about to be passed by everyone as well. This is the tyre of shot you see happen in front of you and you just shoot through the corner. An added bonus is that it always creates a great shot when the tyre comes completely off the wheel like that.
This is one of those photos that suddenly had more meaning the following week. I had just come to the paddock after the autograph signing. Max Verstappen went over to Red Bull and started talking to Helmut Marko with his manager and dad, Jos, and there’s me thinking they were just talking about 2017! I got a few shots of them talking because I was aware of the link with next year, but thought nothing of it.
A few days later, when I saw the news of Verstappen replacing Daniil Kvyat I suddenly remembered this set of photographs and realised it was very newsworthy. This was obviously before Kvyat’s crash on Sunday and the revelation the following week but who knows, maybe the driver switch had already been mentioned at this point?
We didn’t catch the Mercedes collision — Turn 4 is not a usual place for a photographer to stand on the first lap as it’s usually unlikely anything will happen there. The one agency that caught it was doing some work for a sponsor, much like how I got lucky and captured Sebastian Vettel’s engine blowup in Bahrain while doing stuff for DHL, for example, sometimes that’s how it goes. While the race was going I had BBC radio coverage on in my ear and they remarked how sad it was to see the cars sat under covers in parc ferme and so I shot over there as quick as I could.
I think this is a nice image as it’s something different and looks fairly dramatic. I had to get this signed off by the FIA before sending it out because I wasn’t sure if it was actually in parc ferme and an area I’m not allowed to shoot in — I don’t know how it works because I was told it doesn’t become parc ferme until the race finished. Either way, it was a nice shot to get as it was very different to what anyone else got — it has a doomsday feel to it
I had a lot of backlash on this on Instagram, abuse for Justin Bieber and Lewis Hamilton. They seem to be quite polarising figures. A lot of people were asking why he was there and why Hamilton gave him the champagne before celebrating with the team, all this stuff. To be honest, at first I thought it was Eminem! We saw a quick glance of him on the big screen and it was only when he wandered past us on the grid that we realised who it was.
It was a bit strange for Bieber to just be stood there but I guess it’s good for F1 trying to engage with a younger audience and seeing them both enjoying a pally moment was something a bit different and a reminder of Lewis’ fame away from the sport. If there’s a place to watch F1 it’s Monaco — it’s hard not to be impressed with F1 cars when they are flying around the circuit, so close to the wall, so I’m sure Bieber had a good time.
This is a nice shot. I was stood on the podium tower and had a really good spot in the middle because I ran like hell to get there. You never know whether you’ll get a good position because FOM take up a lot of space with their boxes and cameras. I shot him on the 500mm as he came round the corner and parked up. He did this boxing celebration with reference to Muhammad Ali, jumped in the air and did this big salute. You can tell he’s happy even in mid air. I shot on the 500mm, which was the perfect lens and didn’t require much cropping. The result is a great celebration photo that tells a story of the Canadian Grand Prix, which was a masterclass from Lewis for much of the race.
This was really weird. I didn’t actually know what it was on his car until I got back to the media centre and looked at it in detail. I thought it was a bag, but I wasn’t really sure. Baku is called the windy city and it lives up to its name. As a result there was a bit of debris on the track, and although they did a good job of cleaning it every night, there is nothing you can do if it blows on the track during the race. In this instance it looked like a big blue bin liner and it got stuck on the suspension arm of Sebastian Vettel’s car. As he came onto the straight he hit a bump and it went up and split, it was very weird and lucky that no other car hit it.
People love these Procar races back in the day and it was amazing seeing the reaction on social media to this event in Spielberg. This is something they used to do on a regular basis, putting drivers into one car for special races which formed its own championship. In Austria a bunch of the old guys went out, including Niki Lauda, on what was a bit more of a parade than a race. It was great to hear the roar of the engines, the pure power of a normally-aspirated engine.
It was a pretty good spectacle. Marc Surer went off on the first lap and then we saw him in the paddock trying to hide his face from everyone, he looked quite embarrassed. It was great to see some of the old timers there, they certainly enjoyed themselves being back in them. I’d love to see them doing something like this for modern F1 drivers because the fans enjoy it, it’s a bit different.
It was great seeing Lewis Hamilton’s celebrations at Silverstone. He genuinely went beyond what is expected of most drivers when they win a race, engaging with the fans and generally looking like he was having the time of his life. The champagne shots like this are always good fun as the drivers put aside any differences of frustrations and enjoy themselves on the podium for a brief moment. With the pendulum swinging between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg it’s important to get as many different shots of the pair as possible.
At Turn 2 what we would generally do is do the grid, do all the grid preparations and whatever goes on. Then we are kicked off sort of 15 minutes before the start of the race. We then go into the paddock and down the stairs to where the photo area is, pick up the long lenses and then you literally go down to Turn 2. It’s quite a tight angle coming into that corner and obviously all the cars pile in there. There doesn’t seem to be many crashes there to be honest — more at Turn 1 where it’s tighter — but it’s still a nice group shot coming into that corner. I actually shot it more from the banking on the left, rather than shooting it head on. I thought I’d go for a slightly different angle, coming towards me which I think is quite nice.
For the national anthem, some people just do the rear shot which is fine, but a load of guys from the back. I don’t particularly like it can be quite a nice moody shot. You are trying to create an atmospheric picture. It’s quite nice, I’ve seen some where the planes go over and things like that and that’s quite nice but it just gets a bit repetitive. I went round and I looked over and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I put my camera up, I could see Nico was behind and I thought ‘just let him in, it’s not difficult’.
I looked to the other end and Ericsson’s was the furthest to the left and he’s got loads of space and there’s actually a plaque on the floor where someone should be and maybe someone went in the wrong place. Obviously Nico seems to have got the hump, it looks like that to me with the pictures. Maybe the pictures tell the bad story I don’t know! Nico is staring right at him and I’m thinking — because I didn’t see these clips before I didn’t know what was going on — it looked like he was a bit p—– off about the fact that you want to be at the front at your home race.
I went out to Eau Rouge on the Friday afternoon and it is still truly breathtaking after all these years, regardless of what people say about the new cars. It’s still an amazing corner to go to, you don’t get a real sense of the speed until you are sat right there watching them fly past you. The great bit about standing here, on the inside of the bottom of the hill, is you can see the line they take through the rest of the corner. If you look closely you can see it on the road further up. I chose this shot because the car is blurry, adding to the sense of how fast they are going at this point.
I was going to pick a podium shot for Nico Rosberg but this picture stood out as telling a nicer story from the Italian Grand Prix. This is just after qualifying, and Hamilton had just taken pole by half a second. Rosberg was clearly miffed how his teammate could be so much faster and after qualifying he sat looking at the timing screens, wondering where on earth Hamilton had found the time.
On Sunday he got the start right, Hamilton got it wrong, and that turned the momentum back in his favour but Rosberg must wonder what he has to do to beat Lewis on days like Saturday. It’s also a nice shot because 24 hours later he was on the podium celebrating a win, something he probably didn’t imagine when he was sat there. In the context of the whole season, this is one of the moments Rosberg had to dig deep and be mentally strong to beat Lewis.
I was up in the stands to do an atmospheric shot. I had done the grid, done the line-up shot of them all lined up for the national anthem, and literally legged it round the back to get up to this vantage point. You go across a bridge and passed hospitality but I managed to find a spot — but when it’s this crowded you’re worried about people around you maybe getting in the way of the shot.
Luckily I had enough space to pan down the grid as they all pulled away. I didn’t actually see the crash initially, I just heard the crowd screaming as it did happen, and the next minute there was a car lying in the middle of the road. Right after it happened I switched to the 500 for the shots of Nico Hulkenberg climbing out of his car and walking away. When I got back to the media centre I initially sent those shots back and then thought, ‘I wonder if I got the crash?’ I looked through and sure enough I did have the sequence, which was a nice surprise and turned out to be a really good shot.
On top of catching a sequence of Hamilton’s engine failure I also got this shot of him after the retirement. This is probably the key moment of the season — a bit like Michael Schumacher’s engine going in China in 2006. Mercedes even admitted this moment caught Hamilton the title. When you get this kind of moment happening in front of you that’s all you can do. We had some trouble uploading the shot afterwards, which meant it wasn’t immediately available to us.
I was stood on the exit of the corner and was able to get Hamilton climbing out of the car and kneeling down in a prayer position. The last one is a significant picture for us: Lewis shared it on his Instagram feed with an explanation of his feelings and a defence of Mercedes after the race. He’s the most followed driver there by a long way, and it was his most “liked” shot ever — meaning it must be the most successful social F1 image ever. It tells an amazing story about that moment, his feelings and emotions at that moment but also a nice reflection of the faith he has always been very vocal about.
The fans in Japan are just amazing. I love going over to the fan area, talking to them and signing autographs for them. They just want to shake your hand and it got to a point where I just wanted to take a selfie with them! At one point there was a massive group of them and they started shouting my name, so I thought I’ve got to get a photo with them as well. You can see the passion among those that get dressed up and because we promote it through photographs and social media new fans tend to push the boundaries each year and do new things. They are such pleasant people and when you ask for a picture you barely ever get turned down — they love it! There’s no other place like it and it makes Suzuka that bit more special to come back to each year.
I’ve mentioned on these columns before how great Daniel Ricciardo is for a photographer because he’s always flashing his big toothy grin and generally just having fun. He finished third here and probably could have finished second if it wasn’t for the Virtual Safety Car. He’s obviously said the shoey is now just for wins but it seems like making someone else do one when he finishes second or third is just as big a tradition. I don’t know if the TV cameras picked it up, but Gerard Butler took a can of Red Bull on there as he doesn’t drink, so Ricciardo made him down that instead! He was a great sport about it and it was another fun moment — something that isn’t always the case on the podium when the Mercedes guys are there.
This was a walk of emotion, coming out of the car and waving to the crowd over the barrier. Then one of the marshals gave him a flag and I thought ‘well, that’s the shot,’ as he walked away. I couldn’t get any closer because that was the track, he actually shouldn’t have been where he was but it created a great picture. I could see the flag was floating above his head so I was waiting for a shot of when I could see his face. When I first sent these back at the media centre I was in such a rush I don’t think I sent the best shot from this sequence, I sent one where you can’t see his face.
I was changing lenses in the rain and it was a rush, to be honest. You’re waiting for those moments to happen and when they do you have a smile on your face in the background, you just go with it. There was still the rest of the race to finish so you have to focus on your job.
This is my favourite shot from the year. This is right in front of the main grandstand, everyone got it, the photographers the TV cameras. It was a great way to finish the season, the fact he did it on the start-finish straight as well. I think this shot portrays a great season and end and now we know it’s the end of Nico Rosberg’s career in Formula One as well. You can see the celebration in this photo and how much it meant winning the championship. An incredible season, lots of ups and downs, and this one caps it very nicely.