• Life Through A Lens

The wine, the women and the parties

Mark Sutton
March 31, 2010
Mark Sutton meets John Travolta in the Melbourne pit lane © Sutton Images
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Melbourne provided a fantastic show. From the moment the rain started falling in the build-up to the race I knew it was going to be exciting. I haven't had the chance to see the race on TV, but from where I was standing at turn two, it was great to watch. With a race as action packed as that, working as a photographer at one corner is very difficult and it's hard to keep track of exactly what's going on.

The incident at the start with Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher unfolded right in front of me. I thought there was going to be an almighty shunt but somehow the rest of the pack avoided the Ferrari facing the wrong direction. It was hard to know where to point the camera because you can so easily miss something - you really have to be on your toes. On race day we had six people working at the track but even then you can't cover every corner from every angle. Bernie Eccelstone has about 20-30 TV crews for the world feed, but as you can imagine, we're running on a slightly smaller scale. Even so, I think we created a very good package of photos from the race.

From where I was stood, one of the most exciting moments was when Lewis Hamilton passed Felipe Massa into the first corner. He clipped his front wing pulling out the slipstream and then had to brake on the white line, which made it very hairy as he turned in. He had such a brilliant race and it was a great shame Webber took him out towards the end - I'm sure that'll be mentioned in the drivers' meeting in Malaysia. His second half of the race was outstanding and reminded me of Brazil in 2008 when he had to push hard to pass Timo Glock on the last lap for the championship. I think he could have scored a podium if it hadn't been for the Webber incident.

Sutton saw the action unfold at the first and second corners © Sutton Images

It was a great weekend off the track too, because we had so many celebrities milling around the paddock. We love Australia anyway for the wine, the women and the parties, but this time there was a really good atmosphere. To name just a few of the big names, John Travolta was there, Holly Valance (I didn't have a clue who she was until someone pointed her out next to Sir Jackie Stewart) and Danni Minougue, complete with a little bump now she's pregnant. Travolta was on great form and we managed to get a photo of him with all us photographers after he'd done one of his publicity shoots for Qantas airlines. Albert Park is such an easy place to work because, providing the weather is good, a lot of people are outside talking and it seems much friendlier than other paddocks.

After the race it was great. With Button winning again it brought back some good memories from last year. I was right in the front row to take photos when he pulled up in Parc Ferme and managed to get that now familiar shot of him with two fingers in the air celebrating. The after party made for some very good pictures and McLaren were incredibly open, allowing access to him, his girlfriend and the team. I got a great picture of Lewis congratulating Jenson with a hug, which a lot of other people missed so it was a bit of an exclusive. That was quite a poignant moment because Hamilton had had such a difficult weekend compared to Button; it just goes to show that they are really good mates and very much a team.

Lewis Hamilton congratulates Jenson Button on his win © Sutton Images

By that time it was dark but it had started to get pretty dull even before the end of the race. You don't really see it on TV because the cameras they use are so sophisticated and they can just crank up the brightness. But as a photographer the lack of light can make life difficult because you have to use a slower the shutter speed to allow more light in. This year we're lucky because we've started using the Canon EOS 1D MK IV that has a very high ISO setting to counteract it, it's amazing you can almost shoot in the dark. So even as the light worsened I could continue to take photos at fast shutter speeds and still make sure the images were pin sharp on a car travelling at over 150 mph.

We'll be relying on that high ISO setting again in Malaysia this weekend, because we'll likely be facing similar conditions. I've been in Kuala Lumpur since Monday and at 3pm, almost like clockwork, it has absolutely chucked it down. We we're at the hotel pool on Tuesday and one minute it was sunny and the next it was almost black, with lightning and thunder going off all around us. For two hours it absolutely tipped it down, and it's forecast to do the same all week. Providing the race isn't called off like it was last year, I think we can expect another brilliant spectacle.