Mark Sutton Interview

In the right place at the right time

IMf1FAN is delighted to bring you an exclusive interview with the world famous motorsport photographer Mark Sutton.

F1 Test Day Two Abu Dhabi

Mark Sutton took his first motorsport photographs while still in his teens, before setting up his own company Sutton Photographic, to focus on all types of motorsport photography.

Sutton Photographic was founded in 1995. The first event he covered for his new company was the British Formula Three weekend at Silverstone. As it happened he was in the perfect place, before the race had even started, to capture Anthony Reid crash horrifically in the spray and barrel roll off the circuit. Once again his shots were the images of the weekend, Sutton still has the press clippings!
He has had an astonishing career and this season’s race in Australian was his 500th Grand Prix.

We met in West London, eager to find out about his exciting life and career. Considering his world famous contribution to motorsport photography, on meeting, he strikes you as being very modest but clearly a huge enthusiast with a cheerful, engaging personality and a twinkle in his eye. We started by asking him how he got started.

Sutton’s very first assignment was to cover the Marlboro British Formula 3 Championship Race at Thruxton, in October 1983. The Formula 3 championship had a much higher profile in those days and in 1993 included the two big rivals Ayton Senna and Martin Brundle. Right away Sutton showed his natural talent, he was at the right corner to capture Senna “doing his usual lunge” trying to overtake Brundle. They crashed and Senna’s car ended up on top of Brundle.

The race was stopped to recover the cars and you can see Sutton in the BBC footage on You Tube. It was a huge point in a massive battle and it was a huge result for Sutton. His shots instantly went global, published in thousands of titles all around the world.

Alongside his motor-racing photography, in the early days Sutton worked in a variety of photographic jobs, all helping to teach him about his craft and giving him the breadth of understanding and confidence he would need to succeed.

Sutton Photographic was founded in 1995. The first event he covered for his new company was the British Formula Three weekend at Silverstone. As it happened he was in the perfect place, before the race had even started, to capture Anthony Reid crash horrifically in the spray and barrel roll off the circuit. Once again his shots were the images of the weekend, Sutton still has the press clippings!

Does he have a best memory from the early years? There are many, but in particular he recalls the first commercial sponsorship by Sutton Photographic. In 1998 they were asked if they would sponsor a young driver in the UK Karting Championship. He was called Jenson Button. With Sutton Photographic logos on the car, Jenson won his first race before going on to win the Championship. Happy days!

Sutton clearly has a talent for being in the right place at any circuit. Can he give us some tips? “Of course, it very much depends on the track, but the first corner is always a good place, all photographers want to be at the first corner. Height and elevation are also important, that gives you the spatial depth.” As a rule Sutton will follow the position of the TV cameras, but the real trick is to get different angles. “Variety is what everybody wants these days,” says Sutton, “they want as many different angles as possible. For Alonso’s crash at the 2017 Melbourne GP, Sutton was the only one to have it covered from multiple different angles. Have a look at the Nikon blog

We were keen to know what Sutton felt were his three best shots. As big fans F1 we knew his choice would give us the chance to show you some of the most memorable and iconic images we have have savoured and delighted over, from the sport we love. Considering how many times he has pushed the button on the top of his camera in 35 years, we also expected some pause for thought before naming his top three, but no, Sutton with his lovely enthusiasm, was right back at us. And he couldn’t keep it to a top three, “there’s ten there at least,” so we agreed a top four, realising he could and would have given us his top fifty. Eventually we stopped him in at five. So here they are in reverse order…

Number 5 – Leclerc at Spa

Belgium last year, Leclerc and Alonso. Following weeks of detailed investigation into the crash, the FIA concluded the halo saved Charles Leclerc from being hit on the visor by Fernando Alonso’s endplate. Sutton’s stunning shot dramatically captures the fury of the collision. “This is still fresh in my mind,” says Sutton quietly, “the halo has changed everything.”

Number 4 – The bellyflop, Monaco 2018

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates his win at Monaco 2018. “The number one driver for me,” Ricciardo is one of his favourite subjects, no need to explain why and Sutton is in pole position for this shot. “I normally don’t do these sorts of shots,” he says “but this year I felt it might be something special.” Talk about timing. Sutton captures the split-second that Ricciardo hits the water. “It was just one frame, but Danny appears to be floating on the water, with all the key Red Bull people in the background.” In fact, Danny asked Sutton for a copy and Sutton asked Danny for a signed copy. Danny wrote “To Mark, Bellyfloooooop!”

Number 3– Lewis in Montreal, the story picture

You and I immediately think this is a neon lit trophy, but no! Sutton says, “we had taken shots of the pit lane, the podium and after the champagne, but I wasn’t that happy with what I had. The other photographers all disappeared, but I noticed I could get up a bit higher, so I climbed to this vantage point, Lewis came round the corner and I just started shooting.” It was only later that he realised he had captured the sun hitting the trophy at the perfect angle. “This is the story picture” says Sutton. The image is extraordinary. Angels and blessed, are words that spring to mind. Lewis signed prints for Sutton that he donated to a number of charities.

Number 2 (A & B) – The wild eyes! Winning the world championship with Brawn

Brilliant timing! Again, knowing Sutton sponsored Jenson in the early days, it’s easy to understand why he loves this shot. “A relationship with a driver really does help,” he says. Having got out of the car and pulled off his helmet, this was the moment Jenson turned, in wild delight, to find Sutton standing just behind him. When Sutton asked Jenson to sign some copies, on seeing the shots, Jenson retorted, “I’m not signing these, I look crazy!” The images, once again, demonstrate the excellence of Sutton’s timing; the photograph on the right is taken only seconds later, but Jenson has already recovered slightly and the wild ecstasy is gone.

Number 1 – The flying Finn!

This is the one, from the thousands and thousands of shots taken. This is Mark Sutton’s all-time favourite photograph and also his most famous. It is arguably the best shot ever taken of a Formula 1 car. The photograph gave rise to Mika’s nickname, “which is a tremendous accolade” says Sutton modestly. He had only started covering F1 races full time in 1992, “which was Mansell’s year, so that was a great start.” In his second full year of F1, towards the end of 1993 in Adelaide, at the right place at the right time, Sutton got three frames off as Mika Hakkinen took off over a kerb. Sutton says, “There were ten of us (photographers) there, standing behind a concrete barrier and I heard a screech, I looked up, pressed the button and the car was gone. It was literally, an absolute split-second. I turned to the others and said did you get that? And some of them said “Get what?” Those that had managed to shoot were only at 1/60th exposure which was too slow and I was using 1/125th but I didn’t share that with them!” Sutton didn’t know what he had until the film had been processed the next morning. Standing over the light box, he saw three frames, the middle one pin sharp. “There was some swearing going on!” he says. “TV didn’t get it, we immediately did twenty prints and I rushed round to see Mika. He didn’t want to know, it looked like a mistake! But as soon as the engineers saw it, they laughed. There had been an unexplained blip on the telemetry and slight damage to the front and now they could see why!”

It was sold all over the world, McLaren immediately ordered two hundred prints, every sponsor, Marlboro, Goodyear, Shell, asked for copies, and the following year Rothmans used it to show their photographers exactly what they wanted. A print hangs on the wall in Mika’s office today. “We made a lot of money from the shot, you’re talking tens of thousands and that was in ’93…” A large print hangs on the wall in Sutton’s office too. It is signed “Mika Hakkinen, the flying Finn.”

Reflecting on his career Sutton says, “for me it is still a passion and a real pleasure to go and cover the races, even after this long time, I still love it. I want people to contact me and say, I’ve seen that picture, I love it, I want it.” His images are for sale at www.motorsportimages.com, search Mark Sutton.

We’ve got time for one last question… so who’s his money on for 2019? Sutton chuckles, “Well there’s the obvious choice, but I’m going for Leclerc!”

It takes a lot of skill to be in the right place at the right time. For the brilliant way he has captured so many iconic moments from our favourite sport, because he has been in the right place at the right time and for his skill and instinct, us fans can only be profoundly grateful.

You can follow Mark and see his latest work on Instagram and Twitter @F1sutton.

Words: Fred Rutter

All images © Sutton Images and reproduced with kind permission

Hamilton wins record 5th British Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton took a dominant victory at Silverstone to tie the all-time record of five career wins in the British Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver equalled the tally of Scot Jim Clark and Frenchman Alain Prost with his fourth home win in a row to add to his first win for McLaren back in 2008.

Hamilton’s win cut his deficit to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to just one point in the championship as Vettel suffered a front-left tyre failure when running third with two laps to go, dropping to seventh, after which Kimi Raikkonen also sufffered the same problem.

What the top three said:

Hamilton: “The support has been incredible this weekend,” he said. “I am so proud I could do this for you all. Now the plan is to win the championship.”

Bottas: I’m really happy today, It was not an easy race to start from P9. The team did a perfect strategy and I just kept my head down. It’s a perfect weekend and well done to Lewis.”

Raikkonen: “Mercedes were just a bit faster today. And, unfortunately, unlucky situations seem to be following us at the moment.

“It’s an unfortunate situation with the tyre at the end but luckily the car stayed in one place. Not happy but we made the best of a bad situation.”

Hamilton takes his 5th Pole at Silverstone

Lewis Hamilton takes his 5th pole for British F1 GP with Kimi Raikkonen second.

Hamilton had the balance and setup of his Mercedes right where he wanted it when it mattered and he and the car were purring. His final hot lap in Q3 was half a second clear of the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen in second and his F1 world championship rival Sebastian Vettel in third – a country mile on the flat, high-speed challenge of Silverstone. However, at the end of his first quick run in Q3, Grosjean in the Haas complained he was impeded by the British driver at Club corner and the stewards launched their investigation.

Yet Hamilton remained ebullient and, after a tense 60 minutes, the decision came down: no further action.

Their was good news for McLaren Honda for a change as Alonso put the car on P1 for the Q3! however he will start at the back with penalties.

Hamilton is 20 points behind his rival Vettel with team mate, Bottas 15 behind.

F1 Day In London

Formula 1 is today staging F1 Live London, a spectacular show in the heart of the British capital, featuring Formula 1 teams, drivers and cars, modern day cars ranging around the streets, so old F1 cars.

London mayor Sadiq Khan says he is “interested” in Formula 1 holding the British Grand Prix in the capital.
“If F1 want to speak to me I am keen to listen,” said Khan.”My ambition is for London to carry on being the sporting capital of the world.”
“There are some hurdles to overcome, but I am certainly interested in the future in having F1 in London.”

A London Grand Prix has massive appeal for F1’s new owners Liberty Media, and it’s not hard to see why. But there is a long road ahead before it can be considered likely to happen.

Bottas wins in Austria

Valtteri Bottas dominated the Austrian Grand Prix to take his second victory of the year ahead of Sebastian Vettel as Lewis Hamilton recovered to fourth.

Hamilton started eighth after a poor qualifying performance and a five-place grid penalty, and is 20 points behind Ferrari driver Vettel in the championship.

The Mercedes driver will be keen to start eating into Vettel’s advantage at the British Grand Prix next weekend.

His win means Bottas is only 15 points behind Hamilton as the season approaches its halfway mark.

Ricciardo’s third place was his fifth podium finish in a row.

Renault’s Jolyon Palmer just missed out on the final point, finishing 0.5secs behind Williams driver Lance Stroll in 11th place.

British Grand Prix next weekend. Hamilton has won the last three races at Silverstone and he really needs a fourth in a row to start clawing back Vettel’s points lead. The Mercedes should be very strong around the fast sweeps there, and Hamilton needs to put together a good weekend – which he has not done too often this year.

Race winner Bottas: “I had a bit of deja-vu in the end from Russia, Vettel was catching up but the problem was I had a massive [tyre] blister.

“At the beginning I could control the race but it was trickier towards the end.

“I’m really happy, it’s only the second win in my career. I think that was the start of my life.”

Sebastian Vettel: “How would you feel if you were just shy of half a second behind the winner? It was very close.

“I was very happy in the second stint of the race. As soon as we put on the super-soft tyre the car came alive. I think I needed one more lap because Bottas was really struggling to get up the hill.”

Daniel Riccardo: “It was a fun race, there were some decisive moments at the start and then defending the last couple of laps.

“But I stuck to my breaking points and held off. Max Verstappen got the home podium last year and I was a bit envious so it’s nice to be up.

“The second last lap was the tightest and Hamilton got close but I was very pleased to see the chequered flag.”

Bottas takes pole in Austria

Lewis Hamilton will start the Austrian Grand Prix in eighth place with title rival Sebastian Vettel second behind Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton, who started the weekend knowing he would drop five grid places because of a gearbox penalty, had a scrappy session, with numerous mistakes.

Being in eighth rather sixth means Hamilton has a tougher task getting into the podium positions.

He will have to negotiate a way past Force India’s Sergio Perez, Grosjean and both Red Bulls before he gets in the mix with the other drivers in the top two teams.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen completed the top four but was 0.486secs slower than Vettel – a significant margin on one of the shortest laps of the year.

Raikkonen was only just ahead of the Red Bulls, with Daniel Ricciardo ahead of team-mate Max Verstappen for the first time since the Russian Grand Prix at the end of April.

Verstappen had a difficult session, a number of mistakes ending with a spin at Turn Five as he complained of a lack of grip and balance.

Ricciardo wins in Baku

A remarkable race that featured three safety cars and several crashes, including clashes between team-mates, was won by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who started 10th on the grid.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who was last and lapped after the first lap, passed Williams driver Lance Stroll on the final straight as the 18-year-old Canadian scored his first podium in his eighth race after a mature drive.

The result was doubly bitter for Hamilton as he ended up finishing fifth, a place behind Ferrari’s Vettel, and losing ground in the championship despite dominating the race until his unusual problem.

A loose head restraint cost Lewis Hamilton victory in a chaotic and incident-packed Azerbaijan Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel was penalised for driving into his title rival.

Hamilton Storms to pole in Baku

Lewis Hamilton will start the 2017 Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix from pole position after beating Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas by half a second in a frantic end to Saturday’s qualifying session in Baku. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel finished fourth behind Ferrari partner Kimi Raikkonen.

Hamilton had struggled through the practice sessions in Baku but found his form at the start of qualifying and was comfortably quickest in both the first and second sessions.

But on his first lap in the top 10 shootout Hamilton ran wide at the final real corner, Turn 16, on to the long pit straight and lost half a second in the final sector as a result. He was just 0.15secs behind Bottas.

Hamilton was planning a second lap when Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo slid into the wall at Turn Six and forced the session to be stopped while marshals recovered his car.

“That was one of the most exciting laps I’ve had all year and a lot of pressure,” Hamilton said.

“The first lap I easily had the time but I made a mistake in the last corner. It was all or nothing but the lap just got better and better throughout.

“I saw Valtteri ahead and knew he was doing a good lap. I was like, ‘please be enough’. I am ecstatic.

“I am so pumped with that. That’s how qualifying should be. It is going to be a long, hard race but we are in the best position to start.”

Vettel, who starts the race 12 points ahead of Hamilton in the championship, salvaged a decent position in fourth after a difficult day.

He lost most of final practice because of a hydraulics problem and Ferrari had to do a last-minute engine change before qualifying.

Ferrari fitted an old-specification engine, the first one he used this season, which has less power than the newer engine he was meant to use, and Vettel was never close to the Mercedes pace.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen looked the closest challenger to Mercedes, but he was left breathless as the top two teams turned up their engines into qualifying mode.

Verstappen said he had lost 0.3secs on his final lap because of a gear shift problem on the main straight and felt he could have been third fastest.

The two Force Indias were next, Sergio Perez just pipping Esteban Ocon by 0.075secs, and behind them rookie Lance Stroll out-qualified Williams team-mate Felipe Massa for the first time this season, by just 0.045secs.

Finally on to McLaren, they knew they would be starting from the back after a plethora of engine penalties for both drivers even before the weekend started.

But they did not even have the consolation of a decent performance on track – Fernando Alonso was knocked out in first qualifying for the first time this season in 16th place, with team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne qualifying slowest, 0.7secs behind.

The only glimmer of good news was that they will not be right at the back – Jolyon Palmer will be behind them after not being able to take part in qualifying because of an engine fire in final practice.

Sauber F1 boss Kaltenborn Leaves Team

Monisha Kaltenborn has stepped down from her position as team principal and chief executive officer.
Kaltenborn joined Sauber in 2000 as head of its legal department, before rising to CEO in January 2010 and taking a share in the company.
When Longbow Finance acquired the company last year, founder Peter Sauber retired with Kaltenborn retaining her position but relinquishing her shares.
Multiple sources have said Kaltenborn has left her position, though the Swiss team has yet to officially confirm the news.
It is believed the new owners and Kaltenborn could not reach an agreement over how the team should be run.
Sources have suggested one of the issues was the treatment of the outfit’s drivers Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.
It is understood the owners want to give Ericsson priority over Wehrlein, but Kaltenborn was not in favour of such a policy.
Following lengthy discussions, the two parties decided they could not find a way forward to work together and chose to part ways.
The terms of the Kaltenborn’s departure are still being worked out.

Ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Sauber lies ninth in the constructors’ championship with four points.

Formula 1’s 2018 Calendar

The Chinese and Singapore Grands Prix are in doubt for 2018 after being listed as provisional on the first release of the official calendar.

Governing body the FIA has published a 21-race schedule, featuring a French Grand Prix for the first time in a decade – at Le Castellet in Provence.

China and Singapore have not yet completed commercial deals on new contracts with the F1 Group.

The season starts in Australia on 25 March, with the British race on 8 July.

The year ends at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina track on 25 November.

Silverstone is at the end of the first ever run of three consecutive races, two weeks after France on 24 June, with Austria on 1 July.

And Germany returns at Hockenheim for the final year of its current biennial deal, having dropped off the schedule in 2017 because of financial problems at the Nurburgring.

The calendar has been shuffled compared to this year’s schedule to make room for the French event in early summer.

The Azerbaijan race, taking place this weekend, will next year be held on 29 April, the date occupied this year by Russia, which in 2018 will be on 30 September.

2018 Formula 1 calendar
25 March: Australia (Melbourne)
8 April: China* (Shanghai)
15 April: Bahrain (Sakhir)
29 April: Azerbaijan (Baku)
13 May: Spain (Barcelona)
27 May: Monaco
10 June: Canada (Montreal)
24 June: France (Le Castellet)
1 July: Austria (Spielberg)
8 July: Great Britain (Silverstone)
22 July: Germany (Hockenheim)
29 July: Hungary (Budapest)
26 August: Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps)
2 September: Italy (Monza)
16 September: Singapore*
30 September: Russia (Sochi)
7 October: Japan (Suzuka)
21 October: USA (Austin, TX)
28 October: Mexico (Mexico City)
11 November: Brazil (Sao Paulo)
25 November: Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina)