• Life Through a Lens

A moment for reflection

Mark Sutton
December 18, 2014

ESPN photographer Mark Sutton rounds up the best shots from the second half of the Formula One season.

Belgium - Woah Rouge

I hadn't been to Eau Rouge for years and it was great to get down there. This year they locked one of the main gates to get to the part on the outside of the track, so I went early enough before the session so I could cross the track without any issues. It was easier and I didn't fancy climbing over walls and fences to get to the best spot. One guy climbed the gate and as he was up there one of the marshals found the key, which hadn't been there all of the day before! But once in position, it is a great experience. I did some panning shots as they come through at 200mph, which, if you can get sharp results, proves you are a true professional, but this shot was taken through the barrier using a fisheye and a fast shutter speed. The cars are not as noisy as they used to be, so really you just feel the displaced air hit you in the face, but they are bloody close and it still takes your breath away. There's not many corners in F1 where they are doing 200mph with just two layers of barriers between you and the car. It's a must-experience of the Formula One world!

Italy - To the victor, the spoils

Camera model: Nikon D4 | Exposure time: 1/640s | Aperture: F8 | ISO speed: 400 | Lens: 400mm telephoto © Sutton Images
You have a backlit background to this podium shot, which makes it a nice photo. I actually shot it from an open window I found in the media centre, but the Monza podium is a semicircle, so you are never sure which side they are going to be on and whether you will get a clean shot. You have to hope they come towards you. It's a risk and I didn't know where I was going to shoot from, but this window in one of the offices gave a perfect angle.

Singapore - Hunters and the hunted

Camera model: Nikon D4 | Exposure time: 1/1000 s | Aperture: F5.6 | ISO speed: 3200| Lens: 70-200mm zoom © Sutton Images
This is another one where I've taken a shot through that hole in the fence. This is about a 12-inch gap that I have to poke my head through, lean out and shoot down the track. I was here for the finish shot but there were some close battles going on. I knew I had to get something because there were really no other photographers on track at this point. This one is just as important in telling the story as not many people had pictures of this train of cars and obviously this was a battle which came alive in the final laps. Valtteri Bottas was struggling with his tyres and that bunched the field up behind him. I like the shot because Raikkonen's DRS looks like it's in the process of opening, meaning he's just crossing that line, while Sergio Perez hasn't quite hit the mark yet. Then in the background you have Sergio Perez and Jean-Eric Vergne rounding the corner, the two guys who ended up storming past Bottas and Raikkonen.

Japan - Time to say goodbye

Camera model: Nikon D4 | Exposure time: 1/500 s | Aperture : F6.3 | ISO speed : 11400| Lens: 500mm Telephoto © Sutton Images
This was the big story on Saturday morning in Suzuka. People had been expecting stories about the driver market but maybe not this sort of situation, with Red Bull suddenly announcing Sebastian Vettel would not be driving there next year. I turned up, saw the media waiting and it was amusing because he ran behind and the media missed him. They thought there was going to be a gap between the paddock and the pits wasn't the case. I followed him into the pit lane and into the garage; he started talking to his trainer and looked pretty relaxed. Helmut Marko and Christian Horner then came in and it's a nice set of them talking, laughing, then Horner puts an arm round him, he whispered in his ear at one point, all this stuff. You could see the affection there but it was almost like the beginning of the end of an era.

Russia - A pass for Putin

Camera model: Nikon D4 | Exposure time: 1/1000s | Aperture: F4 |ISO speed: 400 | Lens: 500mm Telephoto © Sutton Images
I had no idea Vladimir Putin was going to turn up initially. There was talk about him being there and having 800 passes for all his executives. There were all sorts of stories going around. By this point I'd done most of the race by this point but was determined not to miss the finish so took the shuttle bus around to the final corner. I did a head-on shot of the final corner, which was nice, but then saw all these people in that grandstand and realised Putin was sat there with Bernie Ecclestone. Initially it was just the two of them, and the girl behind who is his translator. The guy on the left is the deputy prime minister, who had been there for most of the weekend. The funny moment here was when Bernie opened a box, and pulled out this permanent pass and Putin seemed to enjoy putting it on - he wore it all day. It's just a shame Bernie wasn't the one to put it over his head as that would have been a great picture.


Camera model : Nikon D4 | Exposure time: 1/1000s | Aperture: F6.3 | ISO speed: 200 | Lens: 500mm telephoto © Sutton Images
This is the last of a good sequence. I was doing a rear shot as I waited for the finish. I wandered down to a gap where the marshals were and it gave me a good view up the hill with all the braking boards. The marsals were interacting with us, telling me who was coming, which was really helpful. We were getting a running commentary so I knew there was a bit of a tasty battle going on behind Jenson Button. What everyone was doing was going up into the corner and then starting it down the inside, trying it on under braking basically, hoping the guy on the outside wouldn't have the traction to battle back. In this case, they were very close and the reason I followed it round was because one of them was going to flip into the air - that's how close it was. There were about ten laps left so I got to see quite a lot of the action taking place - this was Jean-Eric Vergne lunging past Romain Grosjean, which got him a penalty, with Button also in the mix on the outside. .

Brazil - Fernando on form

Camera model: Nikon D4s | Exposure time: 1/500s | Aperture: F2.8 | ISO speed: 1000 | Lens: 24-70mm zoom © Sutton Images
This was while Fernando Alonso's future was still up in the air; I'd seen him earlier that day on the phone, in civilian clothes, with free practice about to start. The previous day I'd seen Alonso walk down this passage after the session. I thought this would be a nice picture and as I set myself up a mechanic walked through the passage first to allow me to get the correct exposure. Then Fernando came out and I fired away along with another photographer, but the bizarre thing was that he put his hands up like he'd just won the race. As he went past us he high-fived us, which is very unusual for Alonso, who might usually say "ciao" or just smile. I looked at the other photographer and said "did that just happen?" and then as Alonso walked into the Ferrari garage he high-fived some more photographers. It was all a bizarre moment but it was good to catch it. I think he was playing up to the cameras at this point, he knew he was going to McLaren but nobody was sure.

Abu Dhabi - Tears of victory

Camera model : Nikon D4S | Exposure time: 1/500s | Aperture: F4 | ISO speed: 1600 | Lens: 500mm Telephoto © Sutton Images
The frames of Lewis Hamilton on the podium told the story of his emotions after winning the championship; they all came out at this point. He was wiping his brow, closing his eyes, it was clear to see it was an emotional moment. He told Martin Brundle on the podium it meant more than his first championship in 2008, I don't know whether I believe him or not as the first one surely has to be the most special. He could go on to match Sebastian Vettel and win four because he is the man to beat now. It was a great end to a brilliant season to be honest, I think, whether you're a Lewis fan or not, you have to agree the right man won the title when you look at the stats. This picture was a fitting way to end the season.

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