Hamil­ton hits out at F1 af­ter team robbed at gun­point

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - SPORTS - By Ri­cardo Navos

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

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