Follow the leader

 F1 photographer Mark Sutton picks his six favourite shots from the Monaco Grand Prix

Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | ISO Speed: 400 | Aperture 1:4.0 | Zoom length: 300mm | Exposure 1/500 sec © Sutton Images


Monaco is always full of celebrities. It’s all about the glamour and sometimes even less about what’s happening on-track. Usually we’re just shooting them from afar, but I actually got pretty friendly with Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham this weekend. I met them on Vijay Mallya’s yacht on Thursday night and new Liam a bit as he was close to the Jordan team – who we used to work with. I often stand on the pit wall in Monaco because it gives you the opportunity to shoot the track and the faces above the garages. That’s where these two were, and they saw me and started joking around a lot. Of course, they weren’t the only celebrities there and the likes of Will Smith and Antonio Banderas made an appearance on race day too. Shooting them is all about capturing the allure of Monaco to the biggest names.

Model: Canon EOS-1D X | ISO Speed: 1600 | Zoom length: 300mm | Exposure 1/80 sec © Sutton Images

Vettel’s quirk

This just sums up one side of Vettel I like. A lot of the drivers are quite vain with how they look when they’re going to be on camera, so when they’re in the garage and sat in their cars they tend to take their helmets and balaclavas off. Vettel’s taken to putting his helmet on his head though, and this was when he was talking to his engineer in the Red Bull garage during the wet part of practice on Thursday. It’s not always that interesting when drivers are talking to their team but he looked out to where we were outside the garage and it just made for a great shot. He was clearly focused on his work, as was Helmut Marko in the background – the driver advisor to Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz – who was also deep in thought.

Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | ISO Speed: 1000 | Aperture 1:18.0 | Zoom length: 300mm | Exposure 1/800 sec © Sutton Images

Kobayashi gets airborne

To be honest, I kind of lucked in to this shot! Ten agencies are given a sticker for a spot at the first corner and when I arrived there was only one spot left, so I was stuck on the outside looking down the pit straight. I’d kept the shot pretty wide as you need to follow action as it unfolds, and when Grosjean went spinning across the track I was prepared for a big accident. I was expecting someone to hit the Lotus and so started firing off the shots. Once the field had gone through I looked back at them and saw the part where Kobayashi is completely in the air – I hadn’t even noticed when I was shooting! How we didn’t have cars barrel-rolling down there I don’t know, because there’s nowhere to go to avoid an accident once it starts at Monaco. In GP2 there was a huge crash up towards Massanet when one driver spun and the field concertinaed up, but somehow that was avoided here.

Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | ISO Speed: 400 | Aperture 1:11.0 | Zoom length: 16mm | Exposure 1/300 sec © Sutton Images

Mansell the photographer

The grid at Monaco is unbelievable. It’s by far the smallest and tightest grid we get, but it appears to be the one race that sees the most passes handed out! It’s always so busy and you can barely move, but you need to be on your toes to notice what is happening where. I saw Jenson and Nigel – who was the FIA’s driver steward this weekend – having a chat, and then Mansell’s friend wanted his photo with Button – so Mansell took it! It seemed very strange, because obviously Mansell is normally a guy being asked for photographs. It seemed pretty difficult for him as well as he had an injured arm in a sling, but he still did it. It was good to see Jenson so relaxed and friendly before the race, even if he wasn’t having his greatest weekend.

Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | ISO Speed: 1600 | Aperture 1:4.0 | Zoom length: 135mm | Exposure 1/320 sec © Sutton Images

Champagne moment

This is such an atmospheric shot; because only in Monaco do you get the drivers down at track level when they have the champagne in their hands. Alonso had run off towards his Ferrari mechanics and Webber followed him towards Red Bull, but there were a number of photographers in the way. Their flashes just lit the spray perfectly, so much so that you can’t see through it. It’s a tricky place to shoot from though – my brother Keith was in there somewhere getting wet. I spoke to one photographer who said he’d got nothing because he was immediately covered. I told him I had a shot of him turning away! In that situation I always take a filter so if the lens does get sprayed I can quickly whip it off and carry on shooting. I guess that comes from years of experience of capturing this great sport.

Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | ISO Speed: 800 | Zoom length: 70mm | Exposure 1/500 sec © Sutton Images

Follow the leader

While it wasn’t the most entertaining race, the fact that it was the closest ever top-four finish at Monaco meant it was a tight one throughout. You’re always looking for shots that will capture the essence of the race, and I think that’s what this one does. Having the leading five cars all in a row and in one shot together so late in a race is very rare, but you can also see just how tight the track is. There’s no way past, but the barriers are so close you know that one mistake will end the race for somebody, and Webber was under a great deal of pressure too. Look how close the marshals are to the cars too – you don’t get that anywhere else. It really is such a unique race.


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