- Life Through A Lens - Mark Sutton
'It's like nowhere else on the calendar'
The heat and humidity always leaves a lasting impression after Malaysia. You hear about it making life uncomfortable for the drivers, but as photographers out on the circuit and away from the air-conditioned motor homes, we have to deal with it too. It's like nowhere else on the calendar: a sauna in the day followed by biblical thunderstorms in the evening.
We got some great shots in the paddock during a mini monsoon on Thursday. The rain was coming down so hard that it was bouncing about two feet back in the air when it hit the ground. Loads of people got caught out in it, including a lot of the drivers who were walking the circuit at the time. I got a brilliant photo of Jenson Button and some of his McLaren team running back to the dry of their garage. But bizarrely after rainstorms like that all week, we didn't see one drop of the stuff on Sunday.
Not that the teams could have told you that before the start of the race, because their weather forecasts were all over the place. It's amazing that with all the money they spend on the feeds from Meteo France they got it so wrong in qualifying. I was in the pits before Q1 and I could see it was starting to rain, so I went to get a shot of all the cars queuing up to go on track at the end of the pit lane. Now, I'm no meteorologist but even I could tell it was going to get worse rather than better. I was counting the cars out on to the circuit and I couldn't believe that neither Ferrari nor McLaren had decided to go out to get a banker lap. This generation of F1 engineers seems to get hoodwinked by their computers and technology and that's a very dangerous thing in motor racing.
When I was waiting for the cars to come back to Parc Ferme after qualifying, I was chatting with a security guard about how big a mistake McLaren and Ferrari had made by not sending their cars out at the right time. But as the words were coming out of my mouth, I saw a couple of guys from Meteo France come out in to the pit lane and put their hands out in the air to see if it was raining. I couldn't believe it! With all their clever equipment it finally came down to two guys putting their hands out under the sky. Even I could have done that.
But the Malaysian climate can make fools of us photographers too. We keep all our equipment in an air-conditioned locker room, which seems like a good idea, but when you take it outside into the 35C heat it all fogs up. You've got to be careful in hot and humid climates, because it doesn't matter how good a photographer you are, if your lens is all fogged up your photos will be terrible. The other problem for us in Sepang is that a lot of drivers and team personnel stay locked away in their air-conditioned buildings, which means there is always a bit of a scrum whenever one of them comes out into the open. A typical example was when we saw Fernando Alonso step out of the Ferrari motor home, and as quick as you like, 20 fellers dashed towards him with cameras swinging around their necks. He talked with an engineer for about a minute and then disappeared out of sight again.
One of my favourite moments from the weekend was when I got Mark Webber to pose with a couple of Australian guys wearing t-shirts with the slogan "Victoria the nanny state" on them. This was a hangover from Melbourne, where Webber criticised his home state for being too strict after Lewis Hamilton was pulled over by the police. I actually agree with Webber, the health and safety procedures are way over the top out there, everywhere you look there is someone in a high-visibility vest and they even tried to get me to wear one when they were packing up the paddock. It's absolutely crazy. So it was good to see Webber have his say and he was very happy to pose for a photo with the fans in the t-shirts.
But if I'm going to talk about people going over the top I have to mention Red Bull this weekend. Apparently there is a detailed photo of their diffuser doing the rounds, so on the grid they got five mechanics to stand around the back of the car so nobody could see it. I know they're all very competitive but that seemed ridiculous because there is only so much you can see from a photo. It's strange because after the race it was a different story and we got into Parc Ferme to take some very detailed pictures of the cars. We got a great photo of the Renault covered in a coating of white powder after a fire extinguisher had been used on it. When it was like that you really could see some of the detail in its diffuser.
Next up is China and a lot of the drivers were out in Malaysia with their girlfriends in order to get a week's holiday with them before going up to Shanghai. I would like to have done the same with my family but I've come back to the UK now and will head back out again next week. I can't wait.