• Life Through a Lens - Mark Sutton

Mixing champagne and Red Bull

Mark Sutton
April 1, 2011

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

Red Bull's afterparty

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The main shot here was taken out of a flower bed so that I could get the angle, and I actually ended up on German TV as Niki Lauda was being interviewed right behind me. I didn't want to get in the way, but I could see it being a good shot and the only way to get it was to trample on these flowers! I just held the camera up in the air with it pre-focused and set to 1/15 shutter speed and used the flashes from the main press pack for the lighting. Once the photos were taken the first champagne cork popped and Mark Webber - who was understandably a bit pissed off - made a swift exit. I saw my opportunity and got right on pole position to get a photo of Sebastian with a face full of champagne. Everyone else was in the wrong position so I was probably the only one to get the shot this close up.

Parc ferme

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This was taken immediately after the race and I was quite lucky because the drivers hung around in parc feme for some good photos. Normally they go straight upstairs for a drink, but for some reason they had bottles of water available as soon as they got out of the car. Lewis Hamilton stayed around the longest and sat there having a good look at the two cars, especially the tyres. It's hard to tell the degradation once the drivers have picked up all the rubber on the slowing down lap, but you can see that the two cars are running quite different camber settings, with the McLaren's tyres set pointing inwards while the Red Bull's are more level. It was also a great shot because they lit the parc ferme and the podium, which creates a really clean picture - a bit like in Singapore. I'd love for them to do it at every race, even in the sunshine, because it lifts the photos really nicely.

Massa v Button

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The key battle at the start of the race was between Felipe Massa in the Ferrari and Jenson Button in the McLaren. It went on for lap after lap and made for some great photos as they raced at close quarters. This one was taken with a 600mm lens from the tower on the exit of turn two, just after Jenson had closed the gap down the straight with his moveable rear wing. Obviously the speed advantage wasn't quite enough to allow him to get past into turn one but it got him very close and was great to watch. On a separate note, I saw the Saubers attempt this corner with the rear wing wide open in practice on Saturday morning, which is a very brave thing to do in such a high-speed corner. I guess the drivers were just seeing what they could get away with ahead of qualifying.

Button gives the V sign

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This was quite a funny moment during the pre-season drivers' photo on the pit straight. We always have someone shooting the line-up head-on, so I decided to go to one side for something different. I had to shoot through the fencing with a 70-200mm lens and a 1.4x converter, which is quite narrow compared to some of our lenses. We were shouting Jenson's name, egging him on to try and get him to look over - instead he offered us the 'V' sign! After that he gave us a smile and then Vettel started looking over so the shouting obviously worked. It's nice just to get something different to show the drivers have a sense of humour, because so often they can be quite boring unless you push them a bit.

In support of Japan

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We were invited to come and shoot this picture after the drivers' briefing on Friday night. There were only three photographers in there as it was primarily for TV and the organisers didn't want 100 photographers falling over each other. It was all pre-planned and they did ten minutes of silence before interviews with the drivers. There are some sombre faces in the photo which proves they all care about Japan. On Sunday the drivers observed a minute's silence before the race, which considering what must have been going through their minds just 10 minutes before the first start of the season was a nice touch.

Red Bull exhaust

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Friday mornings are a bit of a strange time at these fly-away races because the first practice session doesn't start until the afternoon, but you feel that you have to get in early to make sure you don't miss anything. In this case the teams were doing pit stop practice, which I never normally cover, but it was a great opportunity to look at the cars close up in the daylight ahead of the race. On the grid Red Bull always have six guys guarding the back of their car but there was nobody blocking it on Friday morning. For me it was a great opportunity to get some pictures of this very neat exhaust which is the envy of Red Bull's rivals, some of which have copied it. You can see how the hot gases are channelled by a little deflector. For a lot of our clients these photos are very useful for illustrating the latest technical updates.

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