Life Thru The Lens – The 2011 season in photos – Part one

F1 photographer Mark Sutton looks back at his favourite pictures from the first half of the season


Round 1 – Australia: Red Bull afterparty

© Sutton Images

The main shot here was taken out of a flower bed so that I could get the angle, and I actually ended up on German TV as Niki Lauda was being interviewed right behind me. I didn’t want to get in the way, but I could see it being a good shot and the only way to get it was to trample on these flowers! I just held the camera up in the air with it pre-focused and set to 1/15 shutter speed and used the flashes from the main press pack for the lighting. Once the photos were taken the first champagne cork popped and Mark Webber – who was understandably a bit pissed off – made a swift exit. I saw my opportunity and got right on pole position to get a photo of Sebastian with a face full of champagne. Everyone else was in the wrong position so I was probably the only one to get the shot this close up.


Round 2 – Malaysia: Felipe Massa locks up

© Sutton Images

I don’t often do blurry, slow-shutter speed shots but I really like this one of Felipe Massa going in to the last corner. I took it hand held with a 500mm lens and at 1/15 of a second, which is a really slow shutter speed. I’d noticed that a lot of cars were locking up into that corner and I was just looking for something different. As you can see it was quite dull because the sun was behind the clouds at that point and that allowed me to drop it down to a slow shutter speed. It’s also quite an interesting picture because you can see that he has his hand nearly vertically up as he turns into the corner, even though he’s locked up.


Round 3 – China: 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.


Round 4 – Turkey: ‘Please don’t take away our GP’

Camera Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Lens: 70-200mm Zoom | Shutter Speed: 1/250 Sec | F Number 9.0 | ISO Speed: 400 © Sutton Images

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!


Round 5 – Spain: Fighting for the lead

Camera Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Lens: 600mm Telephoto | Exposure: 1/500 Sec | Aperture: 9.0 | ISO Speed: 200 © Sutton Images

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.


Round 6 – Monaco: Geri Halliwell enjoys a Red Bull

Camera Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Lens: 300 mm F2.8 with 1.4x converter giving 420mm | Exposure: 1/320 Sec | Aperture: 4.5 © Sutton Images

This was a funny sequence. I was on the pit wall during the race getting the pit stops and shooting down at the Swimming Pool Chicane. Geri Halliwell was at the Red Bull end and I took a couple of shots of her and her boyfriend, but at one point they all got out a can of Red Bull – whether this was set up I don’t know. They were looking at the can like they’d never drunk the stuff before and then tasted it like they’d never tasted it before, and all this time I was reeling off a sequence of shots, almost paparazzi-style. Then all of a sudden she saw me on the pit wall taking photos and she just started killing herself laughing. So I don’t know if it was a set up because it was a great sequence of photos for Red Bull’s promotion and it’s great for me because I got some interesting expressions from them. She’s a fun person to photograph and she’s certainly not shy of the camera.


Round 7 – Canada: The winning kiss

Camera Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark III | Lens: 16-35mm F6.3 | Exposure: 1/80 Sec | Aperture: 5.6 © Sutton Images

Jessica and Jenson always create great pictures. There’s a lot of love there between the two of them, they always came in in the mornings over the pontoon to the track holding hands, laughing and joking with arms round each other, and they’re like that all through the paddock. Obviously after the race when Jenson won he went over to hug and kiss her but he still had his helmet on, so it didn’t really work as a picture. I was back at McLaren after the podium because they always do a team photo – it’s a real team effort – and he came back and the next minute there’s a massive thunderstorm, so I was back at McLaren with Jessica. I know her quite well and we have a bit of a rapport, and then Jenson came back when the rain stopped, and I moved this desk out the way just in time for him to run towards her and plant this kiss. It was the first reaction between the two of them, and it’s a great shot. It’s nice to see a bit of love in the paddock between people, it can be very tense but after winning on the last lap it was such a great atmosphere down there. What’s so good about this shot is it’s natural, it’s not set up, that’s an emotional reaction there and that’s the best part of it.


Round 8 – Europe: Champagne moment

© Sutton Images

This is an unusual angle because I was positioned down in parc ferme to get photos of the top three as they got out the car and I thought I’d try my luck and stay there for the podium. At first I couldn’t see what was going on during national anthems and trophy presentation because I was tucked right under the rostrum where. But as the champagne started to flow Sebastian came forward and sprayed it into his mouth right above me. I think it’s one of the best shots of the podium that weekend because I’m right underneath it and it’s not obscured by spray or shadows. It’s a great champagne moment, and you’ve got Valencia on the side of his hat so it’s identifiable as the European Grand Prix.


Round 9 – Britain: The Eddie and Bernie show

Camera Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Lens: 16-35mm | Exposure: 1/250 Sec | Aperture: 9.0 © Sutton Images

This was a bizarre moment and I must admit I still don’t know what it was all about. It seemed to me like it was all to do with Eddie’s glasses, which are very similar to Bernie’s and very Andy Warhol-esque. Bernie pointed at them and then took them off him and Eddie retaliated by stealing Bernie’s. They had a bit of a pretend scrap before calming down and posing for a photo wearing each other’s eyewear. The two of them obviously have a good rapport going after all their time in F1 together and you can see that in the paddock at most weekends.


Round 10 – Germany: Hurdling Hamilton

Camera Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Lens: 70-200mm | Exposure: 1/320 Sec | Aperture: 6.3 © Sutton Images

We’re normally behind the second barrier where the teams are, but when we were let in to parc ferme we were allowed up to the first fence. So we were sort of in front of all the team. Lewis got out of the car, did all of his celebrations and then was looking around for his team. When he saw the team over behind the mass of photographers he decided to bounce off his car, took a couple of steps and then ‘boom’; straight over the barrier. I was perched on the pit wall and I couldn’t see where he went so I just shot him bouncing over the wall. It’s quite funny seeing the reactions of some of the photographers who are totally unprepared for it with the wrong lenses on. Fortunately I had pre-empted it and got him just as he jumped; he looks like a hurdler or someone mounting a horse. That’s the thing with Formula One; sometimes you’re lucky and you’ve got the right lens on and sometimes you don’t know what the hell is going to happen! It’s not the cleanest picture in the world but I think the photographers around him add to the shot.


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