• Life Through a Lens

Spa spectacular

Mark Sutton
September 5, 2012

F1 photographer Mark Sutton picks his favourite shots from the Belgian Grand Prix

Funny Faces

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I like these three photos because it's three Germans all with funny faces. All three were taken during Friday practice when the track was soaked with rain and for the drivers there wasn't much to do. Michael Schumacher was telling a story to his engineer Jock Clear and test driver Sam Bird and I just took this sequence of frames where he looks like he is miming taking a photo. It was a nice run of photos and obviously that frame is quite humorous. In Seb Vettel's photo they've just started the engine up in the Red Bull garage and he's grimacing. He was probably quite peeved off because it was bloody cold and you can see he's wearing a jacket - I suspect he was wondering what he's doing there as it was a wasted day for pretty much everyone. Nico Hulkenberg was just talking to his trainer and I don't know what he was pointing to or gesturing. But obviously with stills you catch a moment in time and freeze the action in a way that isn't really possible on TV or video. Nowadays our cameras can shoot at quite a high ISO to compensate for the lack of light without a loss in quality and all of these were shot with my 500mm lens from outside the garage, so the drivers don't even know they're being photographed. I'm sure the drivers hate it, but you get some nice photos and we needed that on Friday with no action on the track.

Look in to the eyes

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These images were also taken on Friday and the reason I've included them is because you so rarely see Kimi Raikkonen's eyes when he's in the car. He always wears a heavily tinted black visor and has it tilted down even when he's in the garage - it's almost like he has it preset. But of course it was raining on Friday so he had a clear visor on and that allowed me to take what is quite a rare photo! It helps that I had what we call a "flat light" in the garage, where it's not too bright and you don't have the usual reflections off the visor.

Die-hard fans

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I like this shot of the fans because it really sums up Friday at Spa. It also seems to me that you've got different types of fans all in the same shot, with one couple behind an old-fashioned umbrella, some more behind a Red Bull umbrella (as you can see, the rain is coming sideways), and then the two at the front in rain macs and that gold stuff you see marathon runners use. I'd say the two at the front are the die-hard fans, the two with the Red Bull umbrella look like they are from the paddock club because they are quite well dressed and I'm not sure about the other two, they look like locals. It's quite a funny mix!

Sky v BBC

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One funny story that I saw develop in front of my own eyes was the battle between British broadcasters Sky Sports and the BBC. Both had the rights to show the Belgian Grand Prix and obviously both wanted to have a word with the race winner Jenson Button as soon as he was out of the car. The BBC managed to talk to him as soon as he was out of the press conference in the interview pen, but that's for the pit lane reporters rather than the presenters. So after that Jenson went to do the celebration shot with all the team and literally as soon as they stood up Sky Sports jumped in to the picture to grab him to talk to. Then as soon as Jenson had finished that interview the BBC were back in there again to talk to him with Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard on the red button. It just shows that it's not just the F1 teams that are competitive.

Look, no hands!

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Most of my race was spent in the wire room making sure we got the crash pictures from the start back to the office and out to our clients. As a result I swapped my duties with one of our other photographers as I was going to go up to Les Combes and then back to La Source before the podium. I then decided that I had to take over the responsibility for shooting parc ferme at the end of the race and as I was down there I thought I may as well do a finish shot as well. It actually worked to my favour because there were only four or five photographers there and this nice Japanese photographer let me in below to take a photo in the gap from down low and shot Button coming across the line all the way through. It was great because he slowed down and raised his hands out of the cockpit, which you don't always see if the top two cars are closer to each other. You get the real emotion at that moment as the engineer comes over the radio to congratulate the driver and you can see here that the emotion is spilling out of the cockpit.

The big one

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It's difficult to know when you're shooting a photo like this who is to blame. I captured it from the start and I followed Romain Grosjean as his car flew into the air and I could also see Fernando in the air, but I didn't really see anything of Lewis. If you look at the frame sequence and how long it took, it probably took five seconds max and if you watch it on TV you don't really see the height that these guys get, unless you watch it in car. It's hard to fully see the ferocity of the accident and the explosion of carbon fibre that happens until you see it in a picture. On TV you saw Lewis walking back to the garage with a bit of his car and that's because he found it in the pit lane! It came off his car with such force that it flew into the pit lane exit by the lights, which is just incredible and actually quite scary.

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