• Life Through A Lens - Mark Sutton

'I kept thinking it's like watching paint dry'

Mark Sutton
March 17, 2010
F1 photographer Mark Sutton © Sutton Images
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The race in Bahrain was boring I must admit. I kept thinking it's like watching paint dry as I was walking around the track. I know it must have made for pretty dull viewing on the TV bit it's not a good thing from a photographer's perspective either. I managed to get a couple of group shots when Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button and Mark Webber were all running line astern but that was as good as it got. I thought one of them might have tried a move but there was not enough downforce for the following car to get close where it mattered. You get the best photos when the drivers are running wheel-to-wheel, but with the exception of Sebastian Vettel dropping with his spark plug problem, that didn't really happen.

The new pit stops were also pretty tough for a photographer because they were just so damn quick. The tyre changes were over in three to four seconds and you don't get many frames in that amount of time - even with our cameras. It was very difficult to anticipate when they were going to come in and then make sure you were in the right position to get the right angle for a good photo. Also most teams were just one-stopping, which means if you miss a driver that's it for the rest of the grand prix.

The only passing at the front in Bahrain came when Sebastian Vettel suffered an engine problem © Sutton Images

So the race wasn't a classic by any stretch of the imagination but we've got Malaysia and China coming up and both of those races are prone to rain storms. That always make for a more interesting race and it will throw all the tyre strategies out the window. If we have just one good race at one of those venues, I think people will completely forget about the lack of action in Bahrain.

One of the upsides of the weekend was the new piece of track. I know some of the drivers didn't like it but it was great for us, with the palm trees in the background and a building that looked like a military base. I think we created some great angles for the pictures that we wouldn't have had on the old layout. There was also a massive bump on up there and they were actually bouncing off it and into the air. I got some good pictures but it would have been great to have a slow motion camera to capture it for TV. The only car that wasn't bumping around all over the place was the Mercedes. The slower cars were really bottoming out quite badly because there set-up wasn't as strong as the front runners. Unfortunately you don't get as many sparks these days without the titanium plates on the bottom of the cars and in Bahrain it's so bright that any sparks you do get don't really show up. To portray the drama at corners like that and not come away with a flat and boring photograph is actually quite difficult.

A bizarre story to come out of the weekend was that the drivers' trainers weren't allowed onto the grid. The drivers are quite angry about that and I can understand why, because they are the whole reason we're all at the grand prix and the trainers are there to make sure they are properly hydrated and prepared. You had the trainers leaning through the gap in the pit wall to help their drivers and that's just absurd. The official reason they weren't allowed on was because it's getting too busy on the grid before the race, but I think we need to prioritise who should be there. Photographers need to be there, the TV crews need to be there but you've got to ask whether some of the journalists do.

Jenson Button's trainer has to watch the grid form from behind the pit wall © Sutton Images

They've all got tabards to go on the circuit but only a select few actually go on track and look at the cars; they'd rather sit in the press room and write the reports from the press releases. A lot of them go on the grid but what are they actually able to find out there? They can't interview the drivers, only the TV crews are allowed to do that, so most of them just seem to be posing for the cameras. If you're going to ban someone you should ban the journalists or put them on a rotation system. There are also a lot of guests, especially in Bahrain, and a lot of them don't even appear to care that they've been let on there. It's hard to believe that they should be given access ahead of the trainers.

Next up are the back-to-back races in Australia and Malaysia and I can't wait. We get a bit of time to relax in Malaysia between the races so I'm really looking forward to that. Australia is often packed with incidents and Malaysia has the threat of rain so I think we might see a little more action than in Bahrain.