• Life Through a Lens

Amazing Austin

Mark Sutton
November 21, 2012

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

Packed grandstands

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure: 1/640s | Aperture: F9 | ISO Speed: 200 | Lens: 70-200mm © Sutton Images
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I just really wanted to say how amazing it was that the crowds were there every day. This was actually on Friday afternoon, and it's amazing that the crowd was so huge over the three days. Friday was around 65,000, I think Saturday was 80,000+ and race day was 117,000; it really was remarkable. On the Friday I went out to the end of the DRS zone and basically was hanging out of this corner where the marshal let us hang out a little bit as they came down the back straight. It was just amazing that Vettel came down the straight with Alonso behind him as the two title contenders. It was a great shot because they weren't like that race but I got to see them in practice almost battling each other. If you think of a whole lap you rarely see them out together but sometimes they do it on purpose to see what their outright speed is on the straights and see if they can catch them using the DRS and everything. It's just a nice picture because it shows Friday being full like it is in Silverstone and Canada - probably the other two where it's completely packed - and the fact that it's the two of them together. One of them went in after this lap so it was one lap only and I with a clear blue sky it made for a great shot.

A sunny start

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure: 1/640s | Aperture: F18 | ISO Speed: 200 | Lens: 16-35mm © Sutton Images
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We had 9 o'clock starts every morning which meant very early starts for us as we had to be at the circuit by 7am to shoot the drivers arriving. It was worth it though because the light at 9 o'clock was just incredible. It was like testing with this golden sort of light, and in to the first corner was backlit so you had this shot where the car went out of the pit lane up the hill in to the sun. It's something you can get in testing but nowhere else on the calendar. At 9 o'clock the light is so clear and golden it's amazing, and it was really nice to see them all going out together for that first run on the Friday morning. There was a big cheer going out around the track from very excited people, and the drivers headed up the hill with the sun reflecting off the circuit due to the angle of the track. It's a different type of picture that you rarely get at races, it's the sort of picture you get at races but you rarely get it with all the cars heading out for practice.

No starts but stripes

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Exposure: 1/640s | Aperture: F10 | ISO Speed: 200 | Lens: 70-200mm © Sutton Images
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This was Romain Grosjean during Friday practice, but the main focus is these stripes. They had painted starts and stripes around the track but the organisers decided it was too much of a distraction for the drivers and TV so they painted the stars out. As a result they put these lines in and it helped create good pictures because it would normally be dull and boring tarmac; we wouldn't usually go there but as soon as they put these lines in it creates images and we try and utilise that for our pictures. It was one of those moments where you have to capture the lines, the car, the people, and get it all at the right moment. We actually met the three English guys that had been painting the stars on the run-off areas and had been there since September. Obviously they were gutted to have to paint them out, it was a lot of work on their behalf but the lines did create really nice pictures at the end of the day. We'd been out to Austin to see the track progress and they've done an amazing job; lots of the ground that was moved to make the track was reused to make these banks for the fans to watch from and it's a great track that delivered a fantastic event for us all.

Celebs on the grid

Top left image - Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure: 1/250s | Aperture: F13 | ISO Speed: 200 | Lens: 16-35mm © Sutton Images
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There were a lot of celebrities on the grid; a lot of Hollywood and entertainers. It was a good turnout in the end with Matt le Blanc, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Dempsey, Gordon Ramsey, and plenty more. I didn't even realise when I shot Sir Jackie Stewart who it was he was with. Jackie's always with somebody on the grid and he's very good at explaining things because a lot of VIPs don't know everything that's going on in Formula One and why certain things are happening. So he was trying to explain various things on the grid and I just happened to be there, I didn't know who he was with at the time but I've since been told it's Eugene Cernan who is the last man on the moon! The Americans will have known who it was but a lot of other people won't have been aware who he is either. It was a good overall turnout; I was expecting a few more big ones that didn't appear but it was a good start. It was a great weekend overall, I think everyone's very happy, everyone's very pleased and it's sort of put Austin on the map of the world which was the whole idea really. I'm really looking forward to coming back here next year already!

Lights out

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure: 1/640s | Aperture: F9 | ISO Speed: 400 | Lens: 70-200mm © Sutton Images
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It was really weird doing the start; I did the grid and then managed to get a shuttle bus up to turn one which saved me five minutes' walk so it was great. We'd been there a few times and what they've done is create a high tower at turn one. Basically if you were shooting it from the ground there would be a black spot where you wouldn't see the cars because of the angle of the hill, so what they had to do was build the tower tall enough so there wouldn't be a black spot when the start happened. So, again, you've got to take your hats off to them because they've thought about it. It's probably the biggest start tower in the world as it's two layers and if you compare it to the Indian tower which has a lot of holes in it, no stairs and no safety features, it's so different. They have a lot of health and safety regulations in America so the start tower was amazing compared to the likes of India. And then the start itself was a bit different; because they've made it so wide it's not your typical start shot. As they get to the brow the field spreads across the track and I think that's probably the reason there wasn't a crash, but it was still spectacular. The crowd was going mental on the first lap and you could actually here it, you could hear people shouting things like "Yee haw" - it was a real Texan welcome to Formula One and the noise from the crowd was just awesome.

Hamilton's Stetson

Camera model: Canon EOS-1D X | Exposure: 1/640s | Aperture: F11 | ISO Speed: 400 | Lens: 500mm telephoto © Sutton Images
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We didn't know they were going to come out with these cowboy hats, we were expecting the boring Pirelli hats as usual. I think it was a great little PR stunt for Pirelli and for the circuit to do that. I think they've done it in previous years in the Eighties somewhere, and it's great. Lewis was quite surprised when he put it on his head but when he came out on to the podium he pointed to it and it was a great moment. I was actually ready for it - I didn't know they were going to do it but I was ready on the ground. I was expecting Lewis to do something as he came out and I was ready for it you could say; you can see the emotions and the point to the hat is just perfect. A similar image is on the front of GP WEEK actually. The podium is usually a typical shot with a trophy but for him to do something a little bit different and point to the hat was great. With the big smile on his face it was a great moment to capture. I noticed that none of the drivers threw them in the crowd either, they're mementos and they're a one-off so they all kept hold of them.

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