Life Through a Lens: Singapore Grand Prix

Life Through a Lens: Singapore Grand Prix

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

Eye In The Sky

Camera – Nikon D5 | Lens – Nikkor 70-200mm | F2.8 Shutter Speed – 1/320th of a second | Aperture – F4 | ISO – 1600

This was a weird one because I went up in the flier in FP2 and was taking some good overhead shots of the final corner. It’s a bit of a chore to get up there because you have to get everything scanned, but this turned out to be worth it. I hadn’t been up there for a few years and as I was getting towards the top I was just taking shots as I went higher and higher.

As chance would have it, one of them was Romain Grosjean sliding through the corner and I managed to get it. Annoyingly I didn’t get him actually hitting the wall because one of the struts obstructed my view. A lot of people liked this shot as it’s a different view you don’t often get to see.

An Early Bath

Camera – Nikon D5 | Lens – Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 | Shutter speed – 1/500th of a second | Aperture – F5.6 | ISO – 1600

I was up in the stands to do an atmospheric shot. I had done the grid, done the line-up shot of them all lined up for the national anthem, and literally legged it round the back to get up to this vantage point. You go across a bridge and passed hospitality but I managed to find a spot — but when it’s this crowded you’re worried about people around you maybe getting in the way of the shot.

Luckily I had enough space to pan down the grid as they all pulled away. I didn’t actually see the crash initially, I just heard the crowd screaming as it did happen, and the next minute there was a car lying in the middle of the road. Right after it happened I switched to the 500 for the shots of Nico Hulkenberg climbing out of his car and walking away. When I got back to the media centre I initially sent those shots back and then thought, ‘I wonder if I got the crash?’ I looked through and sure enough I did have the sequence, which was a nice surprise and turned out to be a really good shot.

Flying Ferrari

Camera – Nikon D5 | Lens – Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 | Shutter speed – 1/30th of a second | Aperture – F16 | ISO – 1600

This is part of Sebastian Vettel’s fight through the field, probably the most entertaining part of the race aside from the end. This is shot on the run down to the first corner and as soon as they go off the racing line with a full tank of fuel it’s bang, bang, bang with all the sparks out of the back of the car, which is very impressive visually. This is just another panned shot as he’s come past me.

Because I could see the sparks I dropped the shutter speed down to a 30th of a second, which is really low, focused on my spot and panned through where I thought the sparks were. It basically gives you the movement and creates an effect on the spark, it effectively enhances them as they come out the back of the car. I don’t know exactly why the cars spark so much in Singapore but they have not re-layed the track since 2008 and that makes a huge difference — something I wish was the case at other circuits in F1 these days.

Pre-Race Pleasantries

Camera – Nikon D5 | Lens – Nikkor 70-200mm | F2.8 | Shutter speed – 1/30th of a second | Aperture – F16 | ISO – 1600

This one was a bit strange. Lewis Hamilton came onto the grid really, really late. You could see he was a bit tense, I got a shot of him climbing into the car and then he got out again, took the helmet off and spoke to his engineers. Initially I thought that would be it because most of the drivers run off to the toilet before the grid but he didn’t, he stayed there.

The chairman of Manchester City was there as well, and he shook Lewis’ hand, and then Rio Ferdinand saw him and called over. They must have been talking for five-ten seconds and I was just shooting as they spoke, I probably got six frames. It’s a nice picture and it’s good to see a bit of emotion between them, smiles on the faces, but you’re always looking for these moments between the drivers and other sports people and dignitaries on the grid.

Chase Carey Gets Himself Acquainted

Camera – Nikon | D5 Lens – Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 | Shutter Speed – 1/250th | Aperture – F6.3 | ISO – 1600

I didn’t see Chase Carey on the Friday but I know he got absolutely mobbed when he arrived. This was on Saturday, I was wandering around the paddock and suddenly Carey turned up with an entourage which included CVC’s Donald Mackenzie. He was being shown around and introduced to various people and Ron Dennis came over to say hello before the Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo came over as well. There was a funny moment when Carey said “It’s a really good race you put on here”, despite the fact Hachigo works for Honda and not the grand prix! Clearly he’s having a steep learning curve. It was interesting to see how much attention there was around him and to see Bernie Ecclestone’s reaction to it all, I don’t think he’s used to not being the centre of attention in the paddock.

Back On Top

Camera – Nikon D5 | Lens – Nikkor 500mm F4 | Shutter Speed – 1/500th of a second | ISO – 1600

This is becoming Nico Rosberg’s trademark podium jump. It’s always a good shot, one I got after doing the finish shot along the main straight. There were supposed to be fireworks going off down the main straight but they didn’t seem to work! So I did that, and I thought ‘right, this is a good chance to run down to the podium’, so I picked up my kit and ran down to the end.

I managed to get a great spot. You need to be ready for Rosberg’s jump shot because he does it every race. I got the 500 lens out and sure enough he came in, waved to the crowd and then jumped. I shot about eight frames within a split second and it gets a great shot. There were some guys next to me taking pictures on their phones and I showed them how much better the shots are from the camera but it’s great they let fans get so close to the action.

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Life Through a Lens: Belgium and Italy

F1 photographer Mark Sutton talks ESPN through his six favourite shots from Spa and Monza.

Catch Me If You Can

Camera: Nikon D5 | Lens: 24-70mm F2.8 | Shutter speed: 1/320th of a second | Aperture: F6.3 | ISO: 200

This was an amusing moment at the end of the race. This guy was a fire marshal at the far end of the straight, and when the race ended and the fans poured on to the track for the podium ceremony he was in no mood to hang around. For some reason he had this scooter with him and he just bolted. It’s something different but also nice because you can see the fans sprinting down to get the best view of the podium, one of the things that makes races like Spa — in traditional F1 heartland — so special compared to some of the newer additions to the calendar.

The Best Corner In F1?

Camera: Nikon D5 | Lens: Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 | Shutter speed: 1/250th of a second with flash | Aperture: F5.6 | ISO: 1600

I went out to Eau Rouge on Friday afternoon and it is still truly breathtaking, regardless of what people say about the new cars. It’s still an amazing corner to go to, you don’t get a real sense of the speed until you are sat right there watching them fly past you. The great bit about standing here, on the inside of the bottom of the hill, is you can see the line they take through the rest of the corner. If you look closely you can see it on the road further up. I chose this shot because the car is blurry, adding to the sense of how fast they are going at this point.

The Line Of Duty

Camera: Nikon D5 | Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 | Shutter speed: 1/250th of a second | Aperture: F4 | ISO: 1600

There was a lot more security for the race at Spa — it was very obvious when you were there, with armed police all over the place. That sort of thing has the potential to unnerve some people. While he was signing autographs, Lewis Hamilton went over to one of them and signed his overalls on the arm. It was a nice moment — it took away some of the tension of them being there, and the soldier really seemed to appreciate it. Any moment you can capture a driver being normal, doing something you don’t tend to see on the cameras, is a great shot because it makes them seem more human rather than just these stars driving fast cars.

Farewell, Felipe

Camera: NikonD5 | Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 | Shutter Speed: 1/640th of a second | Aperture: F7.1 | ISO: 200

Everyone agrees Felipe Massa is one of the nice guys of the paddock and this was a lovely send-off for him at Monza. I’ve never seen a spontaneous ovation for a driver at a press conference but that’s what he got after his initial statement. He was clearly emotional about it and had his whole family at the front row.

There were a few jokes about his son, Felipinho, being in Formula One one day, but Massa’s wife didn’t look too happy with the suggestion! I suppose Massa now has an enviable situation in that he can do whatever he wants, stock cars in Brazil, Formula E, maybe even go into management. I think he’ll be missed by F1, a rare character and people forget how close he came to being a world champion.

Changing Fortunes

Camera: Nikon D5 | Lens: Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 | Shutter Speed:1/125th of a second | Aperture: F16 | ISO: 200

I was going to pick a podium shot for Nico Rosberg but this picture stood out as telling a nicer story from the Italian Grand Prix. This is just after qualifying, and Hamilton had just taken pole by half a second. Rosberg was clearly miffed how his teammate could be so much faster and after qualifying he sat looking at the timing screens, wondering where on earth Hamilton had found the time.

On Sunday he got the start right, Hamilton got it wrong, and that turned the momentum back in his favour but Rosberg must wonder what he has to do to beat Lewis on days like Saturday. It’s also a nice shot because 24 hours later he was on the podium celebrating a win, something he probably didn’t imagine when he was sat there.