• Life Through a Lens

A land of contrast

Mark Sutton
October 31, 2012

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

Bollywood's finest

© Sutton Images
Enlarge
There were a lot of Bollywood celebrities in the paddock and I was trying to get as many pictures as possible for the race organisers. It was a strange build-up because on Thursday, Friday and Saturday there weren't that many celebrities there, and then all of a sudden ahead of the race on Sunday they flooded the paddock and the grid. So in the three or four hours before the race it was all happening and as a photographer it's mind-blowing. In that time we have to shoot support races, the drivers' parade, presentations and then try to get as many pictures as possible of the VIPs. Anil Kapoor, the guy from Slumdog Millionaire, turned up in the media room just before the race and I have no idea what he was doing there, but I had to get some pictures because obviously he's a huge star in Bollywood and Hollywood. But as soon as I finished that I had no time to spare because I had to be on the grid. It really was a really mind-blowing few hours.

Happy birthday Bernie

© Sutton Images
Enlarge
This was quite funny. I was waiting around in the paddock for something to happen on Sunday morning, which we call 'goal hanging' among the photographers. Somebody said Bernie was on his way so I continued to hang around the paddock gates, knowing it was his 82nd birthday and that I might get some good photos. Almost as soon as he arrived, Vicky Chandhok was there and plonked this hat on his head. Ecclestone immediately got into the spirit of things and held out his arms as if to say "How does this look?" I think it made him look like a Prince of India and I took a series of shots because it was only me, a couple of TV crews and some local photographers there. It was a bit of an exclusive and it was great to be there and capture it on his birthday. We do like these funny moments and it's very unusual to see Bernie wearing anything on his head over his iconic silver hair.

Hamilton's pit walk

© Sutton Images
Enlarge
This was a very bizarre moment. It was during Friday practice and Lewis had obviously got bored and decided to come out of his garage to walk down the pit lane and look at the Red Bull and his other rivals. I was on the case and managed to get a shot of him looking in the Red Bull garage as the Mark Webber came out. All the local photographers we're just shooting the car but I thought it was far more interesting to get a photo of Lewis watching Webber come out - that was the shot for me. He then got hounded by photographers as he walked down the pit lane because we don't see the drivers very often and when they step into the pit lane that's our opportunity to get some photos. So we then papped him all the way to the McLaren garage and he disappeared into the back. The next minute he came out with a bloody umbrella and we're all thing "What the hell is he doing?" It wasn't sunny or raining but he put this umbrella up and as people tried to take pictures of him he put this umbrella in the way to shield himself. Well, first of all you're not allowed to have an umbrella in the pit lane. It's considered dangerous and it's against the rules even if it's raining. But secondly, if he's got a problem with the photographers why doesn't he just talk to us? We don't mind listening and if he thinks we're getting too close he can just have a chat with us. We're normal people and it's like he thinks he's above us. The pit lane is our working domain as far as I'm concerned and his domain is in the garage. We don't go in the garage, but if he comes out it's fair game as far as I'm concerned. As he walked back to the McLaren garage he held down his umbrella and I thought sod this and got down really low to lay my camera down on the floor and shoot up with the flash on to fill in his face. It was all very funny and we laughed to ourselves afterwards, but it also creates this bad vibe with the photographers, which is a bit of a shame because we've not done anything wrong.

Only in India

© Sutton Images
Enlarge
This a nice picture and really highlights the contrast you see when you're in India. It's probably one of the oldest tractors in existence and there it is trundling past a Red Bull that's probably worth $5 million; the tractor's probably worth $5 in scrap metal! It's the fact that outside the track you've got people living in poverty right next door to this multi-million pound circus in this track. I think the reason it was there was because they were doing some repairs to the track barriers and this was the only tractor with a welding kit. Maybe it's a classic, I don't know, but it makes a great contrast with the F1 car in the background.

A push in the right direction

© Sutton Images
Enlarge
After the race I was hugely rushed and it was a bit crazy. As I was heading to the podium I just saw out of the corner of my eye Seb and Mark coming back to the pits and Vettel was being pushed by Webber. In the press conference he explained that he had switched his engine off too early, thinking parc ferme was at the other of the pit lane. Mark was behind him and obviously decided to give him a bit of a nudge to help him home. I thought there might be a bigger story behind it so I immediately took the shot because all that matters is that you've got the photo to illustrate the story. It was asked in the press conference so it was worth having the shot just in case.

A smoggy start

© Sutton Images
Enlarge
I'm now sat in the sun in Abu Dhabi and it's a big contrast from India with all the smoke, smog and dust. That was the sad thing about the race at the weekend, a lot of the farmers were burning wood nearby and it creates this smog around the track. Last year they did it as a protest, but it wasn't much better this time around and it makes for awful pictures. You have this constant fog and when you're using a long lens it really doesn't help. You could probably see it on TV too. At the start the main grandstand also casts a shadow over the grid so you've got the shade, the smog and the dust. It's very difficult to create a picture that looks exciting, which is a shame because it's an exciting first corner.

www.suttonimages.com/ | www.gpweek.com | Mark on Twitter

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Feeds Feeds: ESPN Staff

ESPN Staff Close