IMAGO/Michael Potts

Capturing the Masters of Speed: The Art of Formula 1 Photography with Michael Potts

Formula 1 presents photographers with an unparalleled opportunity to witness the apex of human and technological achievement. From the blistering speeds on the track to the raw emotions in the paddock, this interview uncovers the artistry behind capturing the essence of F1, unveiling the secrets that transform mere photographs into captivating visual narratives.

In an exclusive interview with The Game magazine, IMAGO talked to FIA-accredited photographer Michael Potts about his photographic journey into the sport and the techniques he employs to immortalize the moments that define this iconic motorsport.

Michael Potts is a well-accomplished photographer based in Amsterdam who also works in other racing series, such as the Tour de France or MotoGP, but also shoots commercial projects for some of the world’s leading brands.

In this interview, Michael shares his experiences, points out challenges while covering Formula 1 events, and gives recommendations for those who want to know how professional photographers capture the fastest athletes in the world.

“I am very interested in how the camera captures time, be it an instant moment or multiple layered onto one image.”


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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Lewis Hamilton ahead of the 2022 F1 Mexico City Grand Prix at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Lewis Hamilton during the 2022 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Marina Bay, Singapore.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Lewis Hamilton during the 2022 Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Lewis Hamilton, racing for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas team during the 2022 Formula 1 Mexico City Grand Prix at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico.

Can you tell us about your photographic journey, growing up in Africa and how you got started in Formula 1?

My father was both a passionate photographer and a dedicated motorsport fan. I acquired both passions from him. I studied Fine Art at university and loved image making. It wasn’t until I moved from South Africa to Europe that I could combine these two when I attended my first race, the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix.

Having photographed predominantly wildlife, landscapes and portraits, I was not prepared for the speed of modern F1 cars. I spent many years attending races as a fan, always taking my camera but never believing it would be possible to work in the sport. It wasn’t until someone saw some of my images from the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix that I got an opportunity to photograph winter testing the following year.


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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Esteban Ocon, racing for the Alpine team during the 2023 Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix at the Circuit de Monaco in Monte Carlo, Monaco.

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What are the key challenges you face as a Formula 1 photographer, both technically and creatively?

The lack of time is probably the biggest challenge. That might not sound right, as an event will last four days. However, we have such little time with the drivers, with cars on track. You need to know at every moment where the best spot is going to be to capture a driver arriving in a fantastic outfit or where on the track to stand to capture a key moment. I work as an independent freelancer, so it is critical that I make the best use of that limited time to capture shots that are going to give me the best return.

“It is so important to make the most of every moment.”


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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Carlos Sainz ahead of the 2022 F1 Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Carlos Sainz, racing for the Ferrari team during the 2023 Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan.

How do you deal with the high-speed nature of Formula 1 racing while trying to capture the perfect shot?

The speed of the cars is an advantage to the photographer. It’s a chance to show your skill at capturing a sharp image of a car at speed, but also it gives you a wide range of creative options when you try and express that speed and movement with slower shutter speed shots. 

The shape and position of the car, as it changes direction at speed, can make compelling images. This rapidity is something you only really get in Formula 1, and things can change so quickly that you always need to be ready for a crash or something unexpected.

“Stay calm, focus and shoot as quickly as possible.”


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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Sergio Perez, racing for the Red Bull Racing team during the 2022 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, United States.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Logan Sargeant, racing for the Williams Racing team during the 2023 Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

What are some of the unique technical or logistical challenges you face when shooting Formula 1 races at different circuits around the world?

There are a lot of races, 24 next year. The organizers haven’t been kind in putting races in Baku and Miami back to back. I do spend a lot of time in hotels and airports, and luckily that is something I enjoy. I have a massive spreadsheet that covers each day, each connection and hotel stay. This helps me stay on top of everything and to budget correctly for each event. 

I try to plan as much as possible before each race, but occasionally unforeseen things happen, such as the race in Imola being canceled this year, and I have to scramble to get home.


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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Max Verstappen ahead of the 2022 F1 French Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Sergio Perez, racing for the Red Bull Racing team during the 2022 Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Max Verstappen, racing for the Red Bull Racing team during the 2022 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Marina Bay, Singapore.

How do you navigate the restrictions and limitations around the race track regarding access and shooting locations?

Luckily F1 is fairly consistent in what they allow us to do. Occasionally I will run into a local official unaware of the access photographers need – but this is rare. Some of the countries we visit or have visited in the past have restrictions on press freedom and photojournalism. As I am there to photograph the racing, I try to stay away from anything that would cause conflict or prevent me from doing my job. I have had my camera equipment confiscated for 36 hours in one country because of a mix-up in the paperwork. Things like that can be trying. However, most places we go to are very accommodating, and things generally work exceptionally smoothly.


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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Max Verstappen at the 2023 Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Charles Leclerc chats to Verstappen during the 2023 F1 Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Lewis Hamilton enters his car ahead of the 2022 F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone in Northampton, England.

What are the most memorable moments you’ve captured during a Formula 1 race, and why do they stand out for you?

It might sound a bit macabre, but the shots that stand out are usually the crashes; they are unusual and very hard to photograph well. A lot of it is luck, but I try to position myself in places where I think there is a possibility of action. Sometimes it pays off. 

At Silverstone last year, I got a great position low down and safe and was able to capture the massive crash at the start of the race. It was a particularly difficult one to capture as there was so much going on with multiple cars going off, and it all happened very quickly. You are rapidly trying to assess where the best image will be… and if you are not in any danger. It was a scary and exhilarating moment, where, thankfully, no one was hurt.


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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu rolling over after having contact at the start of the 2022 F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone in Northampton, England.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo sliding across the asphalt during the 2022 F1 British GP at Silverstone, Northampton, England.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Lewis Hamilton’s car was airborne after contact with Fernando Alonso on the first lap of the 2022 F1 Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Stavelot, Belgium.

Can you share any tips or advice for aspiring Formula 1 photographers who want to capture stunning images in the motorsport industry?

The best advice is to go to a lot of motorsports events. As a fan shooting F1, you can be very restricted. Especially now, with so many people attending events, finding several good spots to shoot from is very hard. Have a look at some of the other series, such as WEC, WRC and Elms. Here you get much better access as a fan and might get accreditation to one of these series. 

You not only need to know how to take great photographs, but you need to learn the commercial side of photography too. How to get clients and deliver quality work to their expectations and requirements quickly and consistently.


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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Max Verstappen in the spotlight during an interview at the 2022 F1 Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Kelly Piquet, Max Verstappen’s girlfriend, in the pit lane during the 2022 F1 French Grand Prix at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France.

Capturing the Masters of Speed: The Art of Formula 1 Photography with Michael Potts
IMAGO / Michael Potts | Mercedes-AMG Petronas Team Principal & CEO Toto Wolff scooters through the paddock with his wife Susie at the 2023 F1 Miami Grand Prix, United States.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Zhou Guanyu, racing for the Alfa Romeo Racing team during the 2023 Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Fernando Alonso, racing for the Aston Martin F1 team during the 2023 Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Sebastian Vettel prepares for his last Formula 1 race at the 2022 Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Lando Norris, racing for the McLaren F1 team during the 2023 Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmelo, Spain

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Red Bull Racing mechanics prepare Max Verstappen’s car for the 2023 Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmelo, Spain.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Lewis Hamilton arriving in the paddock of the 2023 F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku, Azerbaijan.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Lewis Hamilton arriving for a pit stop during the 2023 F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Valtteri Bottas, racing for the Alfa Romeo Racing team during the 2022 Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Carlos Sainz, racing for the Ferrari team during the 2023 Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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IMAGO / Motorsports Images / Michael Potts | The Red Bull Racing team celebrates the dominant victory at the 2023 Home Grand Prix at Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Sergio Perez, of Red Bull Racing, celebrates his victory at the 2023 F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit, Azerbaijan.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Charles Leclerc putting on his balaclava ahead of the 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

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IMAGO / Michael Potts | Charles Leclerc heading towards his starting position at the 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
An interview by Johannes Häring.

See more from Michael Potts.