Life Through a Lens: The Fernando Alonso crash

Kalisz/Sutton Images

F1 photographer Mark Sutton of Sutton Images talks ESPN through the widely-circulated shots of Fernando Alonso's violent crash in Australia and how his company came away with two memorable angles of the shunt.

Photography can sometimes be a mixture of luck and good planning. Moments before Fernando Alonso's violent crash in Australia, one photographer was crouching down changing a lens. Another had just moved from the corner a lap earlier, hoping to pick up some other shots from Turn 1. We had two guys in a perfect position to capture a sequence for Fernando Alonso's crash -- Daniel Kalisz facing the approach to Turn 4 and James Gasperotti on the exit -- as part of our shooting plan for the race. Both caught shots used widely in media after the crash.

The crash

You can tell Daniel did not have the right lens for this type of shot -- he was trying to capture a very different picture of cars coming through the corner. He had a 500mm lens, explaining why the pictures are tight on framing. Obviously when this is happening in front of you there's no time to change lens so you have to take pictures with what you have. As it turns out he did a great job of capturing the immediate aftermath of contact and Alonso's violent roll after hitting the gravel. The tighter lens is especially effective for the earlier shots, showing the amount of debris around the McLaren.

The aftermath

These are amazing shots -- I think the iconic shots of the crash and the ones which may well go down as the most memorable of the season. The car coming to rest against the wall, Alonso climbing out, then leaning over and taking stock of what happened. We tweeted one of these immediately afterwards, with Alonso sitting underneath the car, and it was retweeted and went viral all over the place. It's one of those pictures that sticks in your memory.

The shot is memorable for a few reasons -- you very rarely see a driver sat underneath a car like that, first of all. But its also a stark reminder of how safe those cars are and how lucky Alonso was to walk away from it. The one of him standing, hunched over, as if he's getting his breath back, with the wrecked car behind him, is the best demonstration of that.

Again, James was shooting with a 500mm lens that was probably too small for this type of shot but it still makes for a remarkable sequence.


There's always an element of luck with getting a great shot (or shots) like we did in Melbourne. On another day we might have missed it. But you have to plan to try and cover every eventuality -- you've got to think about who will be there to get the start shot, who will stay down at a place like Turn 3 or 4 where we have seen plenty of incident in years gone by. It's easy to think a photographer just completely lucked into getting a picture but that's a not fair assessment of how we work.

With a limited number of photographers we have to think carefully ahead of the race and plan it lap by lap -- as the graph below shows. James and Daniel are freelancers who worked for us for the race and will do again this year. It's mutually beneficial -- they get a place to send out their shots, with their credit, to our clients and we get more photographers to populate the circuit.