Photo Roll>>suttons & Formula One

Those of you who follow motor sport and Grand Prix in particular will be only too aware of the high level of talent and commitment that runs throughout the whole paddock. Hard work and brains are the basic qualifications. From the Gladiators who wrap themselves in Nomex and steer the beasts, to those who perform mental gymnastics to create and run the machines, all are at the top of their professions. So too are the hardy band of photographers who, since F1 started the modern era back in 1950, have contributed so many fantastic and iconic images that have helped this sport, that is also a business, to achieve a global reach like no other. The roll of honour from the 50's trips off the tongue, Klementaski, Alexander, Cahier (father & son), Goddard, Cooper, Mase, Asset, etc. etc. These days the work tends to be dominated by the agencies, LAT, DPPI and of course, Sutton Motorsport Images.

I first met Keith Sutton back in 1982 when he was a young man in a hurry to get to the top. I was able to assist him in a small way from the sidelines, then his brother Mark joined him and since then they have built a very successful agency, specialising in Formula One. Many of the images that the pair have produced are rightly famous. So here in SpeedHunters' Photo Month I thought it appropriate to have a look at some magic from the Sutton Archive.

Just because something is a cliche does not make it less true, so the photo was naturally entitled "Flying Finn". Mika Hakkinen launched
his McLaren over the kerbs in Australia back in 1993. Mark Sutton was on alert and captured this fantastic shot.

Not one to be outdone, Keith Sutton was also on form in Australia back in 1986. Nigel Mansell was on course to win the World Driver's Championship in his Williams Honda but was pitched out of the race and lost the title as a result of this puncture. Keith was the only one to get the shot, making a tidy sum for the agency.

The right place at the right time is certainly a prerequiste but as the golfer Gary Player once noted "The more I practice, the luckier I get". To get this shot of Jenson Button celebrating winning the Championship in 2009 took anticipation plus perfect execution, no second chance.

There would be no possibility of anticipating this image, Ralf Schumacher taking out his frustrations on his Toyota. Those of you who read the Sniff Petrol website would find this scene only too familiar. Life imitates art?

Ayrton seeks inspiration. 

Ayrton celebrates.  The great Champion, Ayrton Senna, played a central part in the development of Keith Sutton's business. You can see some of the early material here.

Right up to the end of his life at Imola in 1994, Senna was often the subject of the agency's best work.

To say that the Brazilian was controversial would be an understatement but that is where the drama and the news would be found. At Suzuka in 1989 the rivalry with Alain Prost boiled over.

A year later, still at Suzuka, now in rival camps, the same result. Both chasing the title, Senna forced Prost's Ferrari off the road, this time ending up as Champion.

When not in conflict with his great French rival, Ayrton fought with Nigel Mansell…………200 mph and two inches apart…………

The point of all of this is to show that the vital moment is captured and not just once but consistantly, the mark of a great craftsman.

"Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again." Or so Henri Cartier-Bresson expressed it.

Schumacher in excelsis.

He could walk on water. But it takes real talent and application to convert the moment into an Image.

Sometimes the image is contemplative.

Sometimes not.

Intelligent guesses can be made as to where the action may occur.

And sometimes the action comes to you. Massa being released back into the race while still attached to his fuel rig appeared to be the big story in Singapore back in 2008.

In fact the Big Picture that day would prove to be the seemingly innocuous crash that Nelson Piquet Jnr. had all on his own, that had been suggested to him as a means for his team mate to make a miracle pit stop. Of course that would not be revealed for another half season.

Perhaps this small selection from the thousands and thousands of shots in the Sutton Archive reveals that great photography comes primarily from hard work and a deep understanding of the subject. The rest, such as technique and now application of software can be taught. Talent and graft cannot.

And for those of you who think that racing is all sunshine and grid girls, here is the Renault team in the snows of Silverstone. The glamour, the glamour.

I have been proud to be associated with the Sutton brothers for nearly 30 years, long may it continue.

Another look through their archive tomorrow. Or you can have a poke around yourself here.

John Brooks



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Incredible shots. An inspiration.


I had press credentials for the first time at this year's Montreal GP. I am a writer, but speaking to some of the photographers I heard some insane stories: Apparently you have to prove you're selling at least 250 photos per race to apply for one of those black FIA photog vests and the credentials that come with it. Sutton "reserves" photog spots with tape all around the track and a few of the independent guys were less than pleased about that.

Still, their pictures speak for themselves. Stunning. Thanks John.


Great pics I love F1


Fantastic, give me this over drifting anyday!


Amazing *.*


Inspiring! Thanks.


All those pictures are amazing, but "Flying Finn" is breathtaking!


Thank you so much for this! I loved reading this entry. it brought me a lot of inspiration right now, which i have really been needing lately



Wonderful collection ! Thx John !

And.. I miss the early 90's . Best era for motor sports in general. The F1 was just awesome! Senna 4ever!


Truly fantastic shots, thanks for sharing.


Incredible photos... Gotta learn some tricks to do photo as him....


Incredible photos, unforgettable emotion, moments in decades work for the delight of the world. Great photographers ...... just Amaziiiing!.......

Sorry for my English writing, very bad..


Stunning pictures. An inspiration.


Thanks!! 4the pictures!!


F1 racing is some of the best racing around. Wish is caught on more in USA.


Awesome photos, but the picture of Hakkinen flying in Adelaide was in 1995, not 1993.


This article should be the benchmark for all future Speedhunters articles. Not only is the photography incredible, but the words of the author offer a truly intelligent insight into the art of capturing a moment with a camera. I know Speedhunters can craft wonderful pictures but this shows that at least this contributor can write beautifully as well.


My bad, that was 1993.


@everyone thanks for the feedback........glad that you liked the piece. Sutton Images is a great photo agency.

@MattB the photographers who earn the dark blue FIA Photo vests quite rightly have to prove that they are actually working and contributing to the Show. The requirement for a set number of photos to be published and paid for at commercial rates is a sensible one, to ensure that working professionals can complete their assignments. At all the events I attend there are too many people running around with media credentials who in reality fans with a free ticket. They get in the way and screw things up for those of us who have to put bread on the table from our efforts. Then they go back to the day job.

There is a F1 FIA Photo Delegate who determines who gets positions round the track, they put up the tape marking off the areas reserved for the regulars, the agencies have to agree their positions with the delegate. If media outlets need a specific image they can buy them off the agencies who are, frankly, more likely to get the picture than a fan with a pass.

If this appears to have touched a nerve, then you are right. Since the advent of digital cameras has reduced the amount of skill required to take a competent image, there are legions of folks who will give their work away in return for getting a pass. The proliferation of websites that describe themselves as media outlets, despite having 10 readers at best, has accelerated this trend. I predict that within a few years there will be no professional photographers in motorsport, outside F1, the numbers do not add up. By professional I mean those who earn enough money to pay the bills and live a sort of normal life.

Access in F1 and other motorsports is a finite resource, so give it to those who will make best use of it and contribute to the Show, not to wannabees who just want to hang with the guys or show off to their mates.

Just to be clear, I am sure that those who do manage to get a credential at an F1 event are actually professionals. That does not apply at most other motorsport meetings and it shows in the standard of pictures.


@John: I agree. I was impressed by how hard it is for those photogs to make it in F1 and how hard they've had to work to get there. I didn't run into any "fans with a pass" though. Like you say, in F1 at least, they were all pros.

It's the same for us journalists though. I write for two large Canadian newspapers and a website and it was difficult to get a pass, as it should be. It's extremely hard to make a living at it for many of the same reasons it's hard for working photographers.

Since it seems to be such an important issue, maybe you could do one last editorial on the subject for photo month? The changes you've seen in the pro photo/journalism world in your years on the front lines?

- Matt Bubbers


awesome....speedhunters needs more f1 coverage


Another fantastic post John. Great photos. You shouldn't worry, your images are some of the best in the business as your posts regularly show.

As dubdubs mentioned, this should be the quality bar for Speedhunters.

Too many articles recently have been average, with factual errors, whereas once upon a time it was significantly better. Maybe because some of the original writers/photographers aren't posting as often? I dunno.

The race event coverage particularly Le Mans, and the N24, also Sebring and some of the FD has been top draw though...

Still a good website, just need to watch that quality bar, bit like your games LOL


@Chris - Sorry, Brooksie is correct. It was 93. Look closely, you see the Ford badge on the nose. Last year Senna was at McLaren (94 was Peugeot, 95 was Mercedes and IIRC they were now running at Melbourne)


Fantastic post


Great!!! picture...F1 always...