Capturing China

Mark Sutton

April 21, 2011

F1 photographer Mark Sutton picks his favourite shots from the Chinese Grand Prix weekend

Schumacher’s fans

© Sutton Images

There are some true racing fans in China, but there’s not many of them and I don’t know why there’s not many of them. But there are some die-hard fans who are almost like fanatical fans, and you can see it here with Michael Schumacher waving. It was bizarre because I saw him leaving after qualifying on Saturday and I got some nice shots of him leaving with the sun on him. Then I saw these girls over the other side of the fence, which is almost Japan-esque how they hang around, and then all of a sudden these girls came over and started waving at him. You can see him waving back, and he’s actually driving as well! It’s a limo service but he’s driving, and the guy in the passenger seat is the limo driver. There’s a couple of McLaren guys in the background laughing too, which just shows how bizarre it all was.

Inspecting Pirelli tyres

© Sutton Images

This shot was after qualifying, with a lovely light going down. And Fernando Alonso’s engineer was looking at these tyres, looking how round they were, thinking ‘what the hell is this little mark?’ They mark them, and it was like a little hole, but he was looking at how round they were too. It was just a lovely light, so I captured it using a 600mm fixed telephoto lens. It was interesting to see the engineers out in the open just looking at these tyres, because obviously they are quite important because these tyres will run in the race and their condition depicts the strategy.

McLaren’s scramble on the grid

© Sutton Images

I found this shot of Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren being worked on on the grid really interesting, because it arrived with bits missing and they started tightening it all up. He was lucky to get out in time, and then obviously he won the race, so it was an important moment. This one I just held the camera up quite high to get over the top using a 16-35mm wide-angle zoom lens, but it’s interesting to see all the mechanics working on the car. You’ve got the chief engineer Phil Prew to the right on the radio to the pit wall, so it was very tense, and this shows just how much work was going on.

The queue in qualifying

© Sutton Images

I took this shot out of the Force India garage on a 70-200mm zoom lens. I was in there for qualifying, because Paul [Di Resta] was doing really well, so I hung around for each session. On this instance, because the red flag came out on the last run of the second session, they were waiting in the pits and they all came out like in the old days and all lined up. Basically if you weren’t out in the first three cars you weren’t going to get a lap in, so it was just nice to see them all lined up again. On this shot you can see how close they are, the red light is flashing at the end, and everyone’s looking over the barrier; it’s all quite tense. All the teams are looking over at all the other cars. It’s nice when it’s a race battle in qualifying to get in to the last ten.

Paul Di Resta’s birthday

© Sutton Images

It was Paul Di Resta’s birthday on the Saturday and I think Force India just wanted to give him a breather after qualifying, and not put too much pressure on about doing anything extravagant and splattering cake everywhere. It was nice to see his team cheering him, and it was also one of his mechanics birthday’s on the same day so it was a nice atmosphere after qualifying where he had taken eighth on the grid. We were going to shoot it outside but it was all nice and relaxed inside so we just stayed in the hospitality area. Paul’s very easy to photograph, he’s very calm and collected and got a very old head on young shoulders.

Lewis Hamilton

© Sutton Images

I like this shot because in some cases it’s the desperation of trying to get a picture, and on the other side of me it’s just a bank of photographers. It was actually quite calm to be honest, it’s usually more a scrum, but even with 15-20 photographers on the other side it was calm. There’s TV cameras there too, all trying to get a view of him. All you can do is shout, Lewis knows me quite well and if you give him a good shout he’ll look round, and that one’s right in the lens, which was a 16-35mm wide-angle zoom. It was just a nice way to round out the weekend.

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