Pure emotions in Brazil

F1 photographer Mark Sutton picks his six favourite photos from the season finale in Brazil


Seb on Friday



© Sutton Images


This was the team shot on the Friday night and it was just a great opportunity for me to get portraits. I decided to go to the side to shoot Seb on my long lens – the 500mm – and at one point he looked round, which was great. It’s a nice, clean background against the sky. It’s a lovely blue sky but you can’t see it; he’s in the shade so that’s why it’s a bit washed out. Vettel was quite tense at this point, I must admit. At one point he noticed somebody that didn’t look right and decided to talk to Mark and said “I think he works for another team”. But this guy was with his girlfriend and taking pictures on his iPhone! So he went up to him and looked at his pass and was like “Oh yeah, typical Ferrari” – I think he’s a bit paranoid sometimes. In this case he was paranoid, he was more worried about the guy on his iPhone but all the photographers around got way more shots of the car. It seemed to create a little bit of tension but he was adamant this guy was from another team; he was quite tense over the whole weekend to be honest. The shot on the right is just before the shoot and is lovely light. The low sun actually made them delay the shoot because everyone would have been squinting, but it made for a nice shot here. Seb had to wait around a lot until the sun went down and he was playing around with the front jack in the garage; he just seemed to be very fidgety and tense knowing the weather forecast and what lay ahead.



Hamilton’s parting shot

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McLaren did a team shot as well, and afterwards they said let’s do a team shot for Lewis. At first we were going to do it with the car that was in the pit lane but it was Button’s car, so Lewis was like “Let’s do it on mine” and went and jumped on his car. The team allowed us up to the garage pit lane marker and we were able to shoot really close, which was nice. It was a nice little memento for him I suppose, especially as he didn’t come back with the goods. He also ran this Thank You McLaren logo on his helmet for the team, and pointed to it in parc ferme when he had taken pole position and new cameras would be on him. It was just that sort of weekend for Lewis with the focus being on his final race more than anything else.


Schumacher flies the flag

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This was quite a funny story, because I was doing all the grid pictures and had started from the back and moved to the front. Then I saw on the big screen that Michael was driving round with this flag and I thought “I need to get a picture of that” because Keith was on the grid and doing turn two so would have missed it, turn one would have missed it because he’s already out of the pit lane, and the other guy on the back straight was on the wrong side! So I had to run down to the back of the grid again, so I was running down the middle of the pit lane and everyone was looking at me saying “Where are you going?” but I didn’t have time to explain so just ran to the beginning of the pit lane, went past the FIA guys and managed to get in position. I just wanted a shot of the flag itself flapping in the air, but this was at the end of the lap so he had slowed down a little bit and it’s not as clear as I wanted it to be. But at least it’s a shot with the flag, unless you were on the track you wouldn’t have got it. Carrying a flag in the cockpit is supposed to be banned – I think to stop them slowing down and getting things at the end of the race – but because it was Michael it didn’t really matter.


Vettel’s horror moment

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I came off the grid and couldn’t decide whether to do turn 10 or elsewhere. I usually do the wide shot of turn 10 as it’s like a hairpin but as it was raining I thought I’d get a bit closer and went to turn 8 so I could shoot across to turns 4 and 5. From here I can shoot across with the long lens and do the rest on the zoom lens or the wide lens, but I got in position and I couldn’t really see beyond some trees to turns 4 and 5. I knew something would happen down there – it usually does every year – so moved further down a bank and got a good shot. I got my 500 ready and panned them down the straight so that I was literally ready for anything to happen. I saw this unfolding and just kept my finger on the button, followed it down and got 30 or 40 frames of it. These four are probably the best, I’ve blown it up a little bit but it’s pretty much as you see it.


Romain wrecks his Lotus

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I didn’t really see the crash but I heard it on the Fanvision and it alerted me. A lot of people just got on the kerb and lost it – I think di Resta was the same and Maldonado too – but he hit the tyres at 9.5G I heard. It was a huge impact because it’s a quick corner and it’s banked so if you do lose it you’re heading off at high speed. That’s what the tyres are there for and they did save him I suppose, but the smoke coming out of the car creates quite a nice image and you can see it’s totally wrecked. I’m sure Lotus got another hefty bill for repairs! I shot this from the same spot as Vettel’s crash; I’ve just spun around. It was on the 500 from a mega distance, but with the quality of the cameras these days we are able to blow them up and turn them in to usable, relatively close in shots.


Vettel’s victory moment

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I can’t pick a favourite out of these. With Schumacher beside him is a good moment, it’s like the changing of the guard I suppose. They were side-by-side in parc ferme and it was a carnage moment as all the photographers were waiting and as soon as he came in we all ran to the car, it was a bit crazy. I got a reasonable position – you’re never happy with what you’ve got – but I did a decent job with everyone else behind me. Then he went and sat on the car which was quite a nice shot as he pretended to be a bullfighter sat on the bull. Next he ran over to the team and the team picture was also carnage as we were all running through parc ferme after him, at any other race we probably would have been banned! Then I went across to the gate to go towards the TV pen and all of a sudden Seb and Christian Horner came over, so it was just me, two photographers and a TV camera. I was just shooting away and capturing really nice emotions as Christian was shouting at him “You’ve done it, you’ve done it, your third title” but I don’t think Seb could take it all in. Christian had hold of his head and was shaking it with pure emotions and it seemed Seb couldn’t believe it. These are the photos that show the real emotions; I didn’t shoot the race podium or Red Bull’s podium set-up because although they were great they’re part of the script, not the immediate reaction or emotion which we really want.


Amazing Austin

Amazing Austin

Mark Sutton

November 21, 2012

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


Packed grandstands

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure: 1/640s | Aperture: F9 | ISO Speed: 200 | Lens: 70-200mm © Sutton Images

I just really wanted to say how amazing it was that the crowds were there every day. This was actually on Friday afternoon, and it’s amazing that the crowd was so huge over the three days. Friday was around 65,000, I think Saturday was 80,000+ and race day was 117,000; it really was remarkable. On the Friday I went out to the end of the DRS zone and basically was hanging out of this corner where the marshal let us hang out a little bit as they came down the back straight. It was just amazing that Vettel came down the straight with Alonso behind him as the two title contenders. It was a great shot because they weren’t like that race but I got to see them in practice almost battling each other. If you think of a whole lap you rarely see them out together but sometimes they do it on purpose to see what their outright speed is on the straights and see if they can catch them using the DRS and everything. It’s just a nice picture because it shows Friday being full like it is in Silverstone and Canada – probably the other two where it’s completely packed – and the fact that it’s the two of them together. One of them went in after this lap so it was one lap only and I with a clear blue sky it made for a great shot. 


A sunny start

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure: 1/640s | Aperture: F18 | ISO Speed: 200 | Lens: 16-35mm © Sutton Images

We had 9 o’clock starts every morning which meant very early starts for us as we had to be at the circuit by 7am to shoot the drivers arriving. It was worth it though because the light at 9 o’clock was just incredible. It was like testing with this golden sort of light, and in to the first corner was backlit so you had this shot where the car went out of the pit lane up the hill in to the sun. It’s something you can get in testing but nowhere else on the calendar. At 9 o’clock the light is so clear and golden it’s amazing, and it was really nice to see them all going out together for that first run on the Friday morning. There was a big cheer going out around the track from very excited people, and the drivers headed up the hill with the sun reflecting off the circuit due to the angle of the track. It’s a different type of picture that you rarely get at races, it’s the sort of picture you get at races but you rarely get it with all the cars heading out for practice. 


No starts but stripes

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Exposure: 1/640s | Aperture: F10 | ISO Speed: 200 | Lens: 70-200mm © Sutton Images

This was Romain Grosjean during Friday practice, but the main focus is these stripes. They had painted starts and stripes around the track but the organisers decided it was too much of a distraction for the drivers and TV so they painted the stars out. As a result they put these lines in and it helped create good pictures because it would normally be dull and boring tarmac; we wouldn’t usually go there but as soon as they put these lines in it creates images and we try and utilise that for our pictures. It was one of those moments where you have to capture the lines, the car, the people, and get it all at the right moment. We actually met the three English guys that had been painting the stars on the run-off areas and had been there since September. Obviously they were gutted to have to paint them out, it was a lot of work on their behalf but the lines did create really nice pictures at the end of the day. We’d been out to Austin to see the track progress and they’ve done an amazing job; lots of the ground that was moved to make the track was reused to make these banks for the fans to watch from and it’s a great track that delivered a fantastic event for us all. 


Celebs on the grid

Top left image – Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure: 1/250s | Aperture: F13 | ISO Speed: 200 | Lens: 16-35mm © Sutton Images

There were a lot of celebrities on the grid; a lot of Hollywood and entertainers. It was a good turnout in the end with Matt le Blanc, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Dempsey, Gordon Ramsey, and plenty more. I didn’t even realise when I shot Sir Jackie Stewart who it was he was with. Jackie’s always with somebody on the grid and he’s very good at explaining things because a lot of VIPs don’t know everything that’s going on in Formula One and why certain things are happening. So he was trying to explain various things on the grid and I just happened to be there, I didn’t know who he was with at the time but I’ve since been told it’s Eugene Cernan who is the last man on the moon! The Americans will have known who it was but a lot of other people won’t have been aware who he is either. It was a good overall turnout; I was expecting a few more big ones that didn’t appear but it was a good start. It was a great weekend overall, I think everyone’s very happy, everyone’s very pleased and it’s sort of put Austin on the map of the world which was the whole idea really. I’m really looking forward to coming back here next year already! 


Lights out

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure: 1/640s | Aperture: F9 | ISO Speed: 400 | Lens: 70-200mm © Sutton Images

It was really weird doing the start; I did the grid and then managed to get a shuttle bus up to turn one which saved me five minutes’ walk so it was great. We’d been there a few times and what they’ve done is create a high tower at turn one. Basically if you were shooting it from the ground there would be a black spot where you wouldn’t see the cars because of the angle of the hill, so what they had to do was build the tower tall enough so there wouldn’t be a black spot when the start happened. So, again, you’ve got to take your hats off to them because they’ve thought about it. It’s probably the biggest start tower in the world as it’s two layers and if you compare it to the Indian tower which has a lot of holes in it, no stairs and no safety features, it’s so different. They have a lot of health and safety regulations in America so the start tower was amazing compared to the likes of India. And then the start itself was a bit different; because they’ve made it so wide it’s not your typical start shot. As they get to the brow the field spreads across the track and I think that’s probably the reason there wasn’t a crash, but it was still spectacular. The crowd was going mental on the first lap and you could actually here it, you could hear people shouting things like “Yee haw” – it was a real Texan welcome to Formula One and the noise from the crowd was just awesome. 


Hamilton’s Stetson

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure: 1/640s | Aperture: F11 | ISO Speed: 400 | Lens: 500mm telephoto © Sutton Images

We didn’t know they were going to come out with these cowboy hats, we were expecting the boring Pirelli hats as usual. I think it was a great little PR stunt for Pirelli and for the circuit to do that. I think they’ve done it in previous years in the Eighties somewhere, and it’s great. Lewis was quite surprised when he put it on his head but when he came out on to the podium he pointed to it and it was a great moment. I was actually ready for it – I didn’t know they were going to do it but I was ready on the ground. I was expecting Lewis to do something as he came out and I was ready for it you could say; you can see the emotions and the point to the hat is just perfect. A similar image is on the front of GP WEEK actually. The podium is usually a typical shot with a trophy but for him to do something a little bit different and point to the hat was great. With the big smile on his face it was a great moment to capture. I noticed that none of the drivers threw them in the crowd either, they’re mementos and they’re a one-off so they all kept hold of them.