Mercedes team members robbed at gunpoint in Brazil
SAO PAULO: Lewis Hamilton has urged Formula One to improve security after armed robbers held up members of his Mercedes team outside the Brazilian Grand Prix circuit.
“Some of my team were held up at gunpoint last night leaving the circuit here in Brazil. Gunshots fired, gun held at one’s head. This is so upsetting to hear,” the four-times world champion said on Twitter on yesterday. “Please say a prayer for my guys who are here as professionals today, even if shaken. This happens every single year here. F1 and the teams need to do more. There’s no excuse.”
A team spokesman confirmed that valuables were stolen but nobody was injured in the incident.
Hold-ups are a known risk for teams in Sao Paulo and around the Interlagos circuit, with drivers travelling to and from their hotels with police escorts and in cars with bulletproof protection.
Britain’s Jenson Button was the victim of an attempted robbery in 2010, the year after he won the title with Brawn GP, but the police driver smashed his way through traffic to escape when the gunmen were seen approaching.
Mechanics and other staff travel to and from the track by minibus and are advised against wearing branded team clothing away from the circuit.
A Mercedes team member was also robbed at gunpoint in Mexico last year.
Meanwhile, Renault and Red Bull moved to calm tempers after a row between the French manufacturer and the Toro Rosso team boiled over at the Brazilian Grand Prix yesterday. The public war of words at Interlagos had raised fears that Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso could be left without engines for F1’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix later this month.
Toro Rosso were stung by comments from Renault F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul, with the Frenchman wondering whether their spate of recent engine problems had something to do with how the team used the power units.
The team angrily rejected that and hinted there might be a connection to the intense battle with the Renault works outfit for sixth place.
Retired four-times world champion Alain Prost, special advisor to Renault, quashed suggestions of underhand tactics: “We would never play any dirty game to get one position,” he told Sky Sports. – Reuters