Hamilton hits out at F1 after team robbed at gunpoint
LEWIS HAMILTON has demanded Formula One’s owners take significant action after eight members of his world championship-winning Mercedes team were held at gunpoint in a harrowing robbery on Friday night.
The incident took place at 10pm local time shortly after the crew – consisting mainly of mechanics – had left the Interlagos circuit. One of the staff had a gun held to his head while shots were also fired by the armed men.
Watches, laptops and passports were stolen in the hold-up with a member of Mercedes staff now flying to Sao Paulo to bring back-up passports.
In an earlier incident on Friday evening, a car transporting FIA officials was targeted by three masked assailants – two of whom were brandishing guns – with one cracking a gun on the passenger window. The three FIA staff escaped unharmed due to their quick-thinking driver.
In a third flash-point, members of the British-based Williams team had a narrow escape after a van was held up in front of their minibus as they headed back to their hotel. The team confirmed it had witnessed a van being targeted at gunpoint ahead of them, but its staff managed to get away.
The Interlagos race, which takes place in Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, has been targeted by armed thieves before. Britain’s Jenson Button was ambushed by gunmen when he left the Interlagos track back in 2010. Three Sauber engineers were robbed at gunpoint on the same evening.
‘This happens every single year here,’ world champion Hamilton tweeted before he crashed out of qualifying. ‘F1 and the teams need to do more. There’s no excuse!
‘Some of my team were held up at gun point. Gun shots fired, gun held at one’s head. This is so upsetting to hear. Please say a prayer for my guys who are here as professionals today even if shaken.’
Hamilton’s Mercedes team are now set to travel in convoy for the remainder of the weekend. British team McLaren will also ride in tandem, with a police escort. Some of the eight members of Hamilton’s team will now fly home after the race this evening, instead of their original flight, scheduled to leave Sao Paulo tomorrow night.
The incidents mark the second time in just over 12 months a Mercedes’ staff member has been robbed at gunpoint. Last year in Mexico, a team member, travelling in a chauffeur-driven vehicle from Mexico City Airport to the Mercedes’ hotel, was targeted by two gunmen.
Things got no better for Hamilton on the track as he will start from the back of the grid after crashing during qualifying.
Hamilton, lost control of his Mercedes at 160mph on his very first lap.
‘It is very unusual from me, but it shows we are all human,’ Hamilton said. ‘I’m okay. It happened really quickly. It is very unusual from me, but it shows we are all human,’ he added. ‘I’m okay. It happened really quickly.’
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas will start on pole ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who was the Englishman’s closest title rival. The German’s colleague Kimi Raikkonen will start from third position.
ANGRY: Lewis Hamilton in the paddock (inset) after crashing out of qualifying yesterday