F1 photographer Mark Sutton picks his six favourite shots from the Spanish Grand Prix
I don’t usually go out on the track during practice – I’m more of a pits person – but on Saturday I fancied a change of scenery. I was stood at turn 10 shooting the cars through the slow hairpin when I caught this fire out of the corner of my eye and swung round and just motor-drived it with my camera. I didn’t really know what I’d got, but I kept taking photos as Heidfeld jumped out and the marshals swarmed around the burning Renault with extinguishers. I think Nick was probably bricking himself and judging by the way he ran away from the car he must have thought it was going to explode! I was one of just three photographers who got the photo and there was a guy behind me who was concentrating on his pan shot into turn 10 so much that he didn’t even see it. It was literally over in 5 or 10 seconds and if you didn’t get it then, all that was left was a big cloud of smoke.
Bernie and the girls
I saw these four girls walking around on the grid with Bernie Ecclestone’s girlfriend, Fabiana Flosi, and she grabbed me and asked if I’d take a photo of them. I’m not sure if she knows I work for Bernie’s website or if she’s just seen me around, but I was happy to oblige either way. Then we wondered towards the front of the grid and saw Bernie and it was an opportunity too good to miss to get him posing with the four girls. Then Fabiana came over and started winding Bernie up about being with all these pretty young women, which made for a funny moment, especially when everything else on the grid is so serious. I continued to roll off the photos and this was the result.
The Ferrari’s underbelly
I was taking photos on the start-finish straight when I saw Massa had gone off on the big screen. I looked over and I could see that the marshals were moving something, so I put down one of my cameras and ran over with my wide angle lens. I managed to get a series of photos of him getting out the car, getting on a bike and then heading off back to the pits. The next thing I knew the marshals were hoisting the car up in front of me and I thought it would be rude not to take a photo! It just creates a different kind of picture, although to be honest the teams don’t have as much to hide on the undercarriage now that the double diffuser is banned. The big battle ground is the exhausts this year and how they use the gas to make the diffuser work. But it was an interesting photo nonetheless and tells the story of Felipe Massa’s race.
Fighting for the lead
For the end of the race I went down to the first corner because I thought if Lewis Hamilton was going to overtake Sebastian Vettel, then it was going to happen there. This is taken form a bit before the first corner over a brow on the pit straight and it creates this lovely shimmering mirage effect, where you almost get reflections of the cars on the track. The other great thing about this picture is that you can see the shards of discarded rubber on the side of the track. There are piles of the stuff, just imagine how much would be flicked up if a car drove through it to try to overtake. So this shot is actually telling a few stories from the race, the battle between Lewis and Seb, the use of the DRS – personally I don’t think the zone was long enough and they should have started it from the exit of final corner – and the tyre degradation.
Alonso’s lightning start
This is a classic Barcelona shot. The start is always exciting at the Circuit de Catalunya because they go in to turn one three abreast and come out of turn two in single file. This time it was all about Fernando Alonso and his move from fourth on the grid into the lead, which I thought was quite incredible. The Spanish fans were going completely mad and it’s a shame I couldn’t get a wider picture and have the crowd in the background. But my main priority is always to capture any accidents at the start and that requires this kind of focal length. From what I’ve been told, the drivers are actually taking the start a little easier this year because they know it’s possible to make up positions during the race and as a result we haven’t seen any major crashes.
Button at speed
This is not an angle I’ve seen that often. I was up on the SEAT tower on Friday, which we mainly use for doing overhead shot of the cars coming into the pit lane and across the finish line where the DRS zone starts. But on this occasion I turned around and from there I could see the cars going out of turn 10 and up into turns 11 and 12. This is taken between turns 10 and 11 and shot at a slow shutter speed through some trees. It’s funny, because those trees were planted about ten years ago and if you’d taken this photo then you would have got quite a different shot with none of the greenery. So what I did here was pan with my 600mm – which is a pretty big lens that isn’t usually used for panning – through the trees, and with a little bit of luck and a little bit of skill you get a result like this.
Sebastian Vettel had a rare accident on Friday morning after putting a wheel on the Astroturf at the exit of turn eight and spinning into the barriers. I saw it on the TV in the HRT garage while I was shooting Tonio Liuzzi and immediately ran down the pit lane to see if I could get a photo of Vettel or the car as they returned to the pits. The car turned up first so I took out my wide angle lens and started snapping off as many photos as I could from different angles. The next minute the marshals were saying “No pictures”, but it was in the middle of the pit lane so I ignored them – like the rest of the photographers there – and started shooting underneath their arms! Then the Red Bull mechanics tried to stop us taking pictures and started throwing the grass at us that was plastered to the car! They would probably say they were just picking off the grass but it was a good way for them to try to stop us taking pictures. I suppose this picture is quite interesting to the other teams because you can actually see the weave of the carbon fibre where the nose is broken.
Bernie vs grid girl
I saw Bernie Ecclestone on the grid on Sunday and thought I’d follow him down to the front, taking photos as he walked along. At one point he nearly got run over by Felipe Massa and shouted “Mr Ecclestone, there’s a Ferrari coming down the grid!” He just turned around and waved at Massa as if to say “I’m the boss here, you get out of the way”. I stayed with him until he got to pole position and was about to leave but no one was chucking me off so I thought I’d hang around. Then Bernie tried to get hold of the Turkish flag from this grid girl and I don’t know if she knew who he was because she looked a bit confused. She soon gave it to him and he stood there with it for the national anthem. I thought it was going to be some kind of announcement about the future of the circuit because all the TV cameras were down there, but it turned out it was just an impromptu photo shoot.
Button blur action
This shot was taken with a slow shutter speed but at one of the fastest parts of the circuit. It’s taken in the DRS zone from a bank that gives you a view through some catch fencing with the empty grandstand behind. You hear the car coming first of all and then you can pan it along the straight for 300 metres before they come to the next corner. The result is this sort of blur-action shot, which looks really nice with the colourful grandstand behind. This was taken on Saturday morning when we had perfect sunshine and I just felt that I had to go out from the pits where I usually work and on to the circuit.
Posing with the grid girls
This was a funny shot of the Force India tyre mechanic, Neil Dickie. I think he deserves a mention because nobody else wanted their photo taken with the girls and he was brave enough to go in there and strike a pose. He looked round to make sure no other mechanics were watching because he didn’t want to get whistled at and then said “I’ll nip over so you can get a shot”. It was just so funny because he pulled the perfect pose and one girl behind him couldn’t stop laughing. I’ve known Neil for about 20 years, he worked on sports car projects for Aston Martin and then at Stewart GP, Jaguar and Red Bull after that. He’s quite a character and loves having his rock music on full blast in his section of the garage while everyone in the main part is listening to some kind of pop music or hip hop.
This is a great action shot during the grand prix. I spent most of the race at the first corner but was starting to feel that I was in the wrong spot because all the action was happening in the DRS zone. Last year they didn’t have the DRS and the first corner saw a lot more action, such as the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button for the lead. But this year most drivers got the move completed before the corner or would drop off and wait another lap to overtake in the DRS zone – at least that’s what it looked like from my position. In this shot the two battling are Jenson Button and Felipe Massa and Vitaly Petrov is actually ahead. But it’s a great picture because it looks like they are three abreast and you can see the dirt being chucked up behind the McLaren and Ferrari as they move off the racing line. Obviously it’s shot against the sun, which we try to avoid when possible, but I love the heat haze, the mirror-like mirage across the surface of the track and the fact there is a decent-size crowd in the background.
There were some great signs and posters in the grandstands over the weekend such as “I love you”, “Marry me” and “Come, come, my blonde, come” – although I couldn’t tell you what that last one means. And obviously there was the one that says “Bernie, please don’t take away our Turkish GP” which was particularly relevant. Some of the fans started shouting my name because they must have recognised me and wanted a photo of them to be published all around the world. There was one guy who kept shouting at me and then added me on Facebook and followed me on Twitter!