Life Through a Lens: Bahrain Grand Prix

F1 photographer Mark Sutton talks ESPN through his favourite shots from the Bahrain Grand Prix.


This was probably the most important moment of the weekend. As usual, we had a lot of photographers at the event so we were placed at various places around the track. I decided to do all the warmup preparations on the grid and then wander out to this corner, thinking I'll do the three-quarter shot on the formation lap -- they don't always weave down the straight so I thought I could get some nice group stuff in ahead of the first lap itself, when the field can be a bit more spread out. As I'm shooting, Sebastian Vettel's car exploded as he came into the corner. I managed to shoot him from just after the engine went all the way around the corner. Once he had gone thought I better send that back to the office immediately as it was a massive moment in the race and in the season, given the fact they only have five engines for the whole campaign and it suddenly made Mercedes' evening much easier.

Sparky Red Bull

We know the sparks are more enhanced due to the night, even though there are floodlights you're shooting into a darker background. This is actually shot from the end of the pit lane on a long lens, a 500mm lens, next to where the safety car sits. I can go up there and shoot coming down the straight when they're coming at 200mph so it can be hit and miss but occasionally you can get great shots like this, especially on some of the points where the track isn't very smooth and they just bottom out.

The Red Bull seemed a lot lower than any of the other cars on its first run, with so many more sparks coming off the back compared to anyone else. That creates some really nice pictures but you have to follow them down the shot -- the reason it is blurred because you're shooting at a slow speed which enhances the spark. I probably shot about two or three thousand shots of every car down that straight and the Red Bull was by far the most spectacular.

The champ is here

I saw Lewis Hamilton coming into the paddock on Friday before FP1. He was talking to his trainer and then picked up his phone and started to film for Snapchat. He actually got told off for doing this as he was warned about it in Australia -- FOM is very strict on filming in the paddock and those rules apply for everyone, even a three-time world champion. Lewis actually tried to get this shot twice and I thought I would get behind him rather than join the crowd of photographers, capture a shot within a shot if you like. It just looks nice and shows the sort of attention a driver like Hamilton gets when he arrives in the paddock. Personally I think FOM would be wise to lower those restrictions on drivers filming in the paddock, you just need to look at the followers Hamilton has on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to understand how it could help increase interest in the sport.

Sun down, lights on

This is quite a nice contrast between what the circuit looks like at the different parts of the weekend. We were invited to do the helicopter photos with the Paddock Club guys, the guys who film the race for FOM. We went between FP3 and qualifying on Saturday, straight up to 2,500 feet! When you are on the ground you think the circuit is quite closed up but it's actually in the middle of nowhere, and you also don't notice how close the coast is to the circuit. It looks so small from above and from that height the track looks very simple, a bit like Hungary with its twists and turns. Unlike Singapore, another race where I take this sort of shot, you can really see the remoteness of the circuit in both shots -- it can look like quite a lonely place when you're up high and can see it all spread out in front of you.