F1 photographer Mark Sutton picks his favourite photos from the Japanese Grand Prix
Schumacher’s mind blank
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.
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
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.
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!
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
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.