• Life Through a Lens

Lights, camera, action!

Mark Sutton
September 27, 2012

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

The decision makers

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Exposure time: 1/320s | Aperture: F5 | ISO speed: 400 | Lens: 70-200mm © Sutton Images
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I like this picture of all the FIA stewards walking down the pit lane with FIA race director Charlie Whiting. They look like a bunch of cowboys or pilots with helmets under their arms walking along and I'm sure you'll recognise ex-Toyota F1 driver Allan McNish on the end. Stewards are almost becoming celebrities in their own right in the paddock because of all the decisions they are making these days and stories like Charles Pic getting community service. It's very rare to see them all together and I think they'd been out to inspect the kerbing and the painted markings on the circuit. They were checking the grip level of the paint in the pit lane where the Allianz branding is painted, which is done each race, because when it rains, which it did ahead of the first session on Friday, it becomes quite slippery. After the race the stewards were kept very busy investigating all the incidents and the media centre was kept up to date by the FIA media delegate Matteo Bonciani relaying each decision over the tannoy. So rather than the media waiting for each decision to arrive, he actually told people and explained the reasons, which is very useful if you are busy at your desk working. This is what the media wants. We want openness and decisions like that should be immediately out in the open. If this sort of thing happens at every race it would be great.

Practice makes perfect

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure time: 1/160s | Aperture: F4 | ISO speed: 1000 | Lens: 500mm © Sutton Images
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This was taken while McLaren was practising its pit stops on Thursday night. The teams were constantly practising their pit stops and obviously the dark conditions do put a different sort of feel on it all. They do have to work in a lightly darker area because it is quite bright in the pit lane but not necessarily towards the garages. The lighting in the garage is all you get, so it is quite dark in there as you can see towards the right of the picture with it brighter out towards the track and grandstands. It's nice to get these photos with their reflective visors and for them it stops the glare getting in their eyes. In the race they obviously wear their full overalls and when the car stops it does generally tend to overheat and brakes can catch fire after 20 laps or so of punishment on the track. So things are different in the race, but McLaren appears to have hit its stride with pit stops at recent races and have actually broken the F1 record despite the problems at the beginning of the year.

Parked on double yellows

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure time: 1/60s | Aperture: F2.8 | ISO speed: 1600 | Lens: 16-35mm © Sutton Images
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This shot was taken after Lewis Hamilton stopped on track and you can see the car is covered in fire extinguisher dust. I first heard of the problem on FanVision when I was walking over the bridge from the first corner and I didn't realise how close I was to turn five where he eventually stopped. I probably missed the incident by about five minutes and Lewis obviously went straight back to the garage so he wasn't there by the time I arrived. I saw the car just lying there so I thought I'd pap some pictures off, but the colour of the light was awful because it's being illuminated by street lights rather than the track lights. I couldn't really get around that but I thought it was an interesting shot with all the extinguisher dust on it - so much that you can hardly see the sponsors on it. It's a good picture because it helps to tell the story of Hamilton's retirement with the car parked on a back street away from the action.

Firework frenzy

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure time: 1/13s | Aperture: F13 | ISO speed: 1000 | Lens: 16-35mm © Sutton Images
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This was taken at the end of the race as the celebrations took place down on the podium. The organisers had asked for a picture of the fireworks so I went up on the Singapore Flyer big wheel to take a picture over the grandstands. It was a bit bizarre sat in the pod knowing that my usual job would be shooting the podium and that after this my job was basically done. But because the Flyer is moving all the time I had to time it right and so I had to leave to get on it five minutes before the race finished and we timed it about perfect. But this photo does highlight the problem of shooting at night because you can't see any of the background. The area behind the grandstand isn't a very populated area anyway because it's not the city itself. What I didn't know was that there were also fireworks going off behind me and that's probably the shot to do. Maybe next year we'll try a photo from the Bay Sands Hotel over the harbour and back towards the track. Obviously it was also a celebration of five more years at Marina Bay and it all added to the festival atmosphere.

Perry in the pits

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Exposure time: 1/60s | Aperture: F8 | ISO speed: 1000 | Lens: 16-35mm © Sutton Images
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Katy Perry was performing in the post-race concert and it was great to see her on the grid before the race. I saw all these people crowding around a girl and when I got there I realised it was her. I was pushed for time on the grid because there was a tribute to Professor Sid Watkins so by the time I took this shot it was about ten minutes before the race. Usually I'm off the grid by then and I had to rush to get down to the first corner for the start of the race. But it was good to see her on the grid and then afterwards I hear she put on a good concert at the cricket club in the centre of the race track.

Dream team?

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure time: 1/500s | Aperture: F11 | ISO speed: 16000 | Lens: 16-35mm © Sutton Images
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Could this be the Mercedes dream team? They've been good mates and rivals since their karting days and now there's a chance they could be in the same team together. I took the photo on Friday evening after the drivers' briefing, which is a good opportunity to get photos of the drivers. But this time there were absolutely no other photographers around because it's almost like people do their work and they leave because by then it's the early hours of the morning. I hang around because I always think there is more work to do, but other people just tend to disappear - not that I'm complaining.

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