Capturing Korea

F1 photographer Mark Sutton picks his favourite photos from the Korean Grand Prix


Vettel track walk



Camera model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Exposure time: 1/300s | Aperture: F18 | ISO speed: 400 | Lens: 16-35mm zoom © Sutton Images


For me it’s great that he walks the track. I don’t know why but he seems to walk it around the same time every race at about 11 o’clock. He walks with his engineer obviously, and his trainer, and they’ve got their data on a piece of paper which they try to hide of course. The first couple of days in Korea we had beautiful sunshine, really clear, no smog, lovely sunsets, it was great. It is amazing to see Vettel walking the track; all the young drivers do it but you don’t see any of the top drivers doing it. That’s another reason I think he’s doing really well. It’s about knowing the circuit, actually physically going out there and looking at every kerb, every run-off, every bit of tarmac. You don’t see Lewis doing it any more, or Jenson, Fernando, Raikkonen, you don’t see any of them do it any more. It’s like as a photographer, when we go to new tracks or we have new photographers with us we insist they walk the track and look at it and get a feel for it. As a photographer we tend to walk the opposite way round because we shoot with the cars coming towards us, but that actually works quite well because with the drivers walking the right way round you meet them all!



Turn one



Top image: Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure time: 1/640 s | Aperture: F8 | ISO speed: 400 | Lens: 70-200mm Zoom © Sutton Images


It’s an incredible spot, I’m amazed there wasn’t other photographers up there. It’s where you get the shot of the start from, and I wanted to go up there to get the bridge in too and you don’t really get that from low down because – believe it or not – the LG advertising sign hides the bridge. For me working for organisers they want the crowd, they want the atmosphere and I think it creates a better picture; it’s more atmospheric. You’re in there with the crowd, I’m literally at the back and behind me there’s the helicopter and a TV camera on a crane. Korea’s one of the easiest places to work, you’re literally allowed in to any grandstand, any place, without any security issues at all. It’s great, because it gives us the chance to go and create great pictures which is what it’s all about. For the fans it’s an amazing view from there. You get the start, you get track action, you get the pit stops, you get some overtaking and you’ve got the screens anyway. You can see a lot from there.



The Korean bridge



Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure time: 1/1000 s | Aperture: F5 | ISO speed: 200 | Exposure mode: Manual | Lens: 16-35mm zoom © Sutton Images


This was on the Friday and I got bored in the pits with everyone out on the track so I thought I’d go and shoot from the grandstand; it’s easy enough to get to over the bridge. I shoot this on the wide angle of them coming under the bridge, which is typical Korean architecture with the tiled roof and you can see how close the sea is to the circuit behind. This is supposed to be developed in to a marina – where the channel comes down the middle – but it’s yet to be developed. The governor who we met on Friday between sessions said that they’re going to start building work next year so that sounds quite positive. They are actually building a massive casino with hotel and leisure complex on the other side of the sea so development is starting. It’s not yet on the track side of the water but they’ve got a new bridge from the centre of Mokpo towards the track so now the traffic’s eased a bit with two bridges across the main causeway where all the ships come through. It was so wonderful on the first couple of days when it was clear and we could see a little bit more of the surroundings because it can be really smoggy otherwise and you can’t really give the track much of a backdrop.



The Iceman cometh



Camera model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Exposure time: 1/250s | Aperture: F18 | ISO speed: 400 | Lens: 70-200mm zoom © Sutton Images


It was quite funny because I hadn’t seen this originally. They say that nobody’s interested in motorsport in Korea but they are, there’s a lot of fans there. There’s a lot of fans that have got particular favourites as drivers, and someone pointed this sign out to me. So I went over and shot it through the fence – I took the hood off and luckily you can fit the 70-200mm lens through the fence – and it makes me laugh. They do love Kimi, he’s a bit of a character and it’s a bit tongue in cheek. There was a few banners like that, I’m not sure where they got them from but I think it’s just race fans. It’s a very funny sign.



Alonso v Button



Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure time: 1/640s | Aperture: F9 | ISO speed: 100 | Lens: 500mm telephoto © Sutton Images


This was towards the end of the session on Friday afternoon, and there was a lovely sunset on Friday which adds to this picture. It was just an opportunity to get a shot of a couple of guys trying to out-psych each other during practice. This is what they do sometimes, when one’s slowed down the other will go past; I think this was actually on a slowing down lap but they were just battling. I don’t think it was a full-on flat-out lap but they were just trying to out-psych each other I think. It’s a bit of a game going on sometimes and if they can get away with it they’ll do it. A lot of it seems to go on during Friday and Saturday practice, if you do it in qualifying you’re likely to get penalised but in practice you can get away with it. It’s good to test your braking stability in to a corner against another car – especially against a McLaren for Fernando. At this time of the day you get some lovely light, a bit like in testing, and this is just shot on the 500mm lens. I’m positioned on the exit of the corner, there’s a lot of lines out there so I’m doing the lines shot so I’m looking out for things like this and the exit shot, so there’s a lot of pictures to get down there.



Always be prepared



Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure time: 1/250s | Aperture: F6.3 | ISO speed: 1000 | Lens: 300mm telephoto © Sutton Images


I think Adrian Newey had seen the last race when Paul Monaghan had got absolutely drenched and he’s brought some goggles with him on to the podium. It’s like he read this column after Japan when I was talking about how much champagne can sting if it gets in your eyes! I don’t think Vettel saw them at first, he turned round and sprayed him and then Seb noticed. He tried to get closer but it wasn’t doing anything, then Newey took the goggles off and Mark tried to pour some champagne over him so he quickly pressed them against his face again! After that he just threw them in to the crowd and you’ll never guess who caught them; Helmut Marko! He could have thrown them anywhere and they landed right in his hands. Maybe that’s why Red Bull is so fast – top secret goggles! It was a really funny moment, and it shows how astute Newey is that he’d actually thought about it before he went on the podium and grabbed one of the mechanics’ goggles. Red Bull like to spread it around – they don’t want Horner up there every race – they give everyone their chance to collect the trophy and acknowledge their contribution, and they’re clearly working well as they’ve now won three in a row.


Japanese Joy

F1 photographer Mark Sutton picks his favourite photos from the Japanese Grand Prix


Schumacher’s mind blank



(Right image) Camera model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Exposure time: 1/300s | Aperture: F18 | ISO speed: 400 | Lens: 16-35mm zoom © Sutton Images


There was only me and one other photographer here and it’s quite a funny story. Before the start of the race Schumacher was on the grid as you can see and basically he started waving to the fans, but I think he got a little bit distracted. His trainer was stood next to him holding his helmet and normally the driver picks up the relevant bit of kit off him, but I think Michael got distracted or was in a different world or a different time zone but he started putting his helmet on before putting his balaclava on! It was quite a funny moment, I must admit. Michael twigged at the same time but tried not to show it and he said something to his trainer in German – I think when he twigged – and tried to hide it. You’d think after all these years he’d have it set in his motion how it all works: Earpieces in, balaclava, helmet. That’s the sort of process he goes through but he forgot the balaclava bit which was almost a sign of his age! The whole weekend with the fact that he did retire probably took a bit of pressure off him, and I think he could have finished in the top six if he hadn’t had his ten-place grid penalty as he was flying in the race.





(Bottom image) Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure time: 1/640s | Aperture: F7.1 | ISO speed: 200 | Lens: 500mm telephoto © Sutton Images


It’s amazing because I was listening to the FanVision and they were saying on there that it isn’t a hard circuit on brakes. I thought that was quite unusual because I remember basically every year coming in to the chicane people lock up. In this photo it’s di Resta who is locking up in the race, and he seemed to be doing it on every lap. And then there was Perez who kept locking up in to the hairpin on Friday afternoon, so it seemed to be that the teams were struggling with set-ups. You’d think that by the second session and certainly the race that they’d have resolved all these issues, it’s amazing that the balance on the brakes can be so wrong. But it creates great pictures for us; we want incidents, we want raw emotions, we want locking brakes, that’s what we’re always looking for. To capture them is an art, to make sure you’ve got the finger on the trigger at the right time and got the focus point. You can be masqueraded by the cars coming through the chicane in front of you and then all of a sudden a car will appear from 130R, there’s literally a 20 metre section where they appear so you’ve got to anticipate it. I saw the lap before that di Resta locked up so I got him the following time, and with Perez he’s really locked up. That will heavily damage the tyres; if you look at the Schumacher and di Resta spins on Saturday morning, their tyres were absolute trashed. I saw Schumacher’s car come back on the truck and every tyre was ruined, they were literally going in the bin.


Lotus and McLaren



Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure time: 1/640s | Aperture: F8 | ISO speed: 200 | Lens: 500mm telephoto with 1.4 converter © Sutton Images


This is a typical Suzuka shot; obviously normally you’d shoot it with the big Ferris wheel in the background but I just thought it’s quite nice tight in on that corner. The light is absolutely perfect; the light with the sun setting because it’s a 3 o’clock start and it goes dark around 5.30pm. It’s amazing they run the race so late because obviously any chance of rain or a two-hour race it goes pretty much in to darkness. But you get this lovely golden light at the end of the day and this is shot at the final chicane. It’s shot with the 500 and a converter; I’m now shooting on a D1X which is full frame so you tend to shoot more with a converter or enlarge it because the files are so big. You can crop it a little bit, but when you’re professional you always tend to try and shoot getting the car in the full frame. It’s just a nice shot, it’s got the crowd in it, it’s got lovely golden light, it’s clean, the perfect shot really.


Fanatical fans



(Top left image) Camera model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Exposure time: 1/300s | Aperture: F16 | ISO speed: 400 | Lens: 16-35mm zoom © Sutton Images


It seemed that this year the fans were the craziest I’d seen them for a long time since the Senna and Mansell days. I don’t know why, but they just seem to be getting a bit more back in to it now with samurai swords, engines on their backs, cars on top of their heads and flags; they seem to be making a lot of their own stuff and then mixing it with official stuff. It’s very funny and they’re so enthusiastic, it’s brilliant, I love it. They’re probably the most enthusiastic of the year. Some of the shots were taken Friday and some were taken race day, and I actually went in to the crowd on race day – which was a bit bizarre – and had a little wander round. I gave out a few of the Sutton and GPWEEK cards to fans I’d taken pictures of and the next minute there were hands coming in left, right and centre because they all wanted something that was free! So I gave out about 500 cards in a couple of minutes and it actually felt a bit dangerous like when drivers sign their autographs. I signed a few and it was quite nice having to do that though, because the drivers don’t tend to go in the public area so for the fans to see someone from the paddock go out in the merchandise area was quite rare. It was quite good to go out there and meet the fans, mention this column I do for ESPN and give out the cards so it was quite a good PR exercise but mainly a good experience in terms of meeting people because they are completely bonkers!


Congratulations Kamui



Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure time: 1/640s | Aperture: F4 | ISO speed: 1600 | Lens: 70-200mm zoom © Sutton Images


This shot just shows the happiness from Kamui’s point of view and the complete turnaround in his fortunes for the team which he’s been waiting for. He’s been close to the podium, wanting it to happen all year but just not happened, and to finally do it at this particular moment and this particular race was just the perfect solution for him. He’s been under a lot of pressure because obviously Sergio’s had those three podiums and Kamui’s not got the results he should have had through a few bad errors and a few unlucky moments, so I think it was the perfect end to a great weekend for him. He held Jenson off too, which was amazing, and that McLaren in the last four races has been the car to beat so it was amazing that he could hold him off. He knows that track so well and loves the track. All the drivers love that circuit and some of them rate it as their best of the year because it’s such a flowing circuit with a lot of high-speed corners and g-forces. They don’t like the boring tracks with the big run-off areas and the badly designed ones which are just the norm. They like something that’s a bit different and this is a proper old school track.


Red Bull’s champagne moment



Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure time: 1/500s | Aperture: F5.6 | ISO speed: 1600 | Lens: 500mm telephoto © Sutton Images


This is Paul Monaghan on the podium with Seb, he’s the head of car engineering at Red Bull. Most of the time you want to keep your mouth and your eyes closed but he wanted all the champagne he could get! You’ve got to keep your eyes closed though; I’ve had times when I’ve been stood under the podium shooting upwards and champagne’s dripped down in to my eyes and it really stings! But in this moment there’s pure emotion; it seems to be that soaking the team member collecting the constructors’ trophy is a thank you from the driver! Paul is a big part of the team, works with Adrian Newey on the aero side, and I was watching him at the weekend actually as he’s a big photography nut. He had his camera focused on doing all the aero paint, I saw him in the garage taking photos to analyse all the paint. Whereas Newey was looking around at where the aero paint was going, Paul was going in to a bit more detail. He’s a nice guy and I’ve known him for a long time so it was good to see him on the podium collecting the trophy at the end of what was obviously a successful weekend for Red Bull.