Life Through a Lens: Chinese Grand Prix

Life Through a Lens: Chinese Grand Prix

F1 photographer Mark Sutton talks through his favourite shots from the Chinese Grand Prix.


Camera model: NIKON D5 | Exposure time: 1/1000 s | Aperture: F7.1 | ISO speed : 200 | Lens: 500mm Telephoto

This was one of the key moments of the race and pretty dramatic. You get plenty of time to see them coming down the backstraight in China when standing where I was and the tyre actually blew out with quite a way to go. This shot is good as you’ve got Ricciardo trying to navigate the turn and keep an eye on his mirrors, he needs to get on the inside to pit at the next corner but he’s about to be passed by everyone as well. This is the tyre of shot you see happen in front of you and you just shoot through the corner. An added bonus is that it always creates a great shot when the tyre comes completely off the wheel like that.


Camera model: NIKON D5 | Exposure time: 1/1000s | Aperture: F5 | ISO speed: 400 | Lens: 500mm Telephoto

I imagine this was a bit of an awkward moment for Sebastian Vettel. Immediately after the race he hunted Kimi Raikkonen down and was gesticulating quite a lot with his hands, probably trying to explain what happened in the build-up to their contact at Turn 1. This obviously continue with him and Daniil Kvyat before the podium ceremony but it showed that Vettel’s immediate thoughts after the race were about making things right with Raikkonen. The framing looks tight and that’s because of where all this took place — while all this was happening, Nico Rosberg is not too far away celebrating on his car in parc ferme, the shots I would usually be snapping from this sort of vantage point.

Six in a row

Camera model: NIKON D4S | Exposure time: 1/1600s | Aperture: F5.6 | ISO speed: 200 | Lens: 70-200mm Zoom

It must have been a pretty lonely race for Nico Rosberg. He led from the front and sometimes its easy to overlook the job that goes into winning a race when you lead the entire grand prix. These are always good shots, Rosberg here is crossing the line and waving to his guys on the pit wall — people always want to see some emotion from their drivers, win or lose. Things have gone pretty perfectly for him this season and if anything it’s a great way for 2016 to unfold because now the onus is on Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari to catch up.

The centre of attention

Camera model : NIKON D4S | Exposure time: 1/1600s | Aperture: F5.6 | ISO speed: 200 | Lens: 70-200mm Zoom

This is similar to the shot from Bahrain behind Lewis, with all the photographers snapping him. This was just before the drivers’ parade but instead of joining those guys on the floor I thought I would do something a little different and shoot from above. Sometimes doing that helps you get a greater perspective of what the drivers see and what is around them. This is another example of the attention Lewis has during a race weekend and of course he’s got that phone with him!

Paddock glamour

Camera model: NIKON D5 | Exposure time: 1/8000s | Aperture: F4 | ISO speed: 1600 | Lens: 500mm Telephoto

This was on Saturday before qualifying. There are always grid girls in the paddock and they are usually dressed differently depending on where the race is being held. These were quite striking outfits and this girl stuck out — the rest of her colleagues are blurred due to the type of lens I’m using. As a photography agency you always wanted to provide as many photos from a race weekend and this type of shot adds some nice colour and variety to what we deliver.


Life Through a Lens: Bahrain Grand Prix

Life Through a Lens: Bahrain Grand Prix
 F1 photographer Mark Sutton talks ESPN through his favourite shots from the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Sparky Red Bull

Camera model: Nikon D5 | Exposure time: 1/15S | Aperture: F13 | ISO speed: 200 | Lens: 500mm Telephoto


We know the sparks are more enhanced due to the night, even though there are floodlights you’re shooting into a darker background. This is actually shot from the end of the pit lane on a long lens, a 500mm lens, next to where the safety car sits. I can go up there and shoot coming down the straight when they’re coming at 200mph so it can be hit and miss but occasionally you can get great shots like this, especially on some of the points where the track isn’t very smooth and they just bottom out.

The Red Bull seemed a lot lower than any of the other cars on its first run, with so many more sparks coming off the back compared to anyone else. That creates some really nice pictures but you have to follow them down the shot — the reason it is blurred because you’re shooting at a slow speed which enhances the spark. I probably shot about two or three thousand shots of every car down that straight and the Red Bull was by far the most spectacular.


Camera model: Nikon D5 | Exposure time: 1/1000s | Aperture: F5.6 | ISO speed : 3200 | Lens: 70-200 Zoom


This was probably the most important moment of the weekend. As usual, we had a lot of photographers at the event so we were placed at various places around the track. I decided to do all the warm-up preparations on the grid and then wander out to this corner, thinking I’ll do the three-quarter shot on the formation lap — they don’t always weave down the straight so I thought I could get some nice group stuff in ahead of the first lap itself, when the field can be a bit more spread out. As I’m shooting, Sebastian Vettel’s car exploded as he came into the corner. I managed to shoot him from just after the engine went all the way around the corner. Once he had gone thought I better send that back to the office immediately as it was a massive moment in the race and in the season, given the fact they only have five engines for the whole campaign and it suddenly made Mercedes’ evening much easier.

The Champ Is Here

Camera model: Nikon D4S | Exposure time: 1/320s | Aperture: F18 | ISO speed : 400 | Lens: 70-200mm Zoom


I saw Lewis Hamilton coming into the paddock on Friday before FP1. He was talking to his trainer and then picked up his phone and started to film for Snapchat. He actually got told off for doing this as he was warned about it in Australia — FOM is very strict on filming in the paddock and those rules apply for everyone, even a three-time world champion. Lewis actually tried to get this shot twice and I thought I would get behind him rather than join the crowd of photographers, capture a shot within a shot if you like. It just looks nice and shows the sort of attention a driver like Hamilton gets when he arrives in the paddock. Personally I think FOM would be wise to lower those restrictions on drivers filming in the paddock, you just need to look at the followers Hamilton has on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to understand how it could help increase interest in the sport.

Sun Down, Lights On

Camera model: Nikon D5 | Exposure time: 1/640s | Aperture: F11 | ISO speed: 200 | Lens: 24-70mm Zoom


Camera model: Nikon D5 | Exposure time: 1/250s | Aperture: F9 | ISO speed: 6400 | Lens: 24-70mm Zoom


This is quite a nice contrast between what the circuit looks like at the different parts of the weekend. We were invited to do the helicopter photos with the Paddock Club guys, the guys who film the race for FOM. We went between FP3 and qualifying on Saturday, straight up to 2,500 feet! When you are on the ground you think the circuit is quite closed up but it’s actually in the middle of nowhere, and you also don’t notice how close the coast is to the circuit. It looks so small from above and from that height the track looks very simple, a bit like Hungary with its twists and turns. Unlike Singapore, another race where I take this sort of shot, you can really see the remoteness of the circuit in both shots — it can look like quite a lonely place when you’re up high and can see it all spread out in front of you.