Some unfinished business
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Button tells of his great escape
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Button tells of his great escape
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Nov 2010   |  2:09 pm GMT  |  26 comments

Reigning world champion Jenson Button and his entourage have just arrived at the Interlagos circuit to tell the story of how they escaped machine gun wielding bandits last night.

The one that got away: Button tells his escape story


Button, his father John, manager Richard Goddard and trainer Mike Collyer left the circuit at around 7pm last night in an armoured Mercedes and were attacked at the bottom of the hill which leads away from Interlagos and back towards the city of Sao Paulo. There is a favella all the way down the hill on the right hand side of the road, the side which is next to the lane leading back to town.

Six men ran out of the favella and approached the car,
“We saw six men, all of them brandishing machine guns, ” said Button. “My driver was a legend. He bounced off about five cars. We were driving over the top of them. It was very scary.”

It seems that the driver, who was trained in evasion techniques, bounced off quite a few cars, which followed the party back to the hotel where they are staying, there was some paperwork to be sorted out on the damage..

Button was relieved to escape, Goddard looked a little pale this morning, but John Button had a grin on his face as he recounted the dramas, which had seemed like a scene from a Hollywood movie. He lives life to the full and was telling me only yesterday how he’d been having a less exciting time in Sao Paulo than he usually has!

Less well publicised is the fact that Bridgestone, Sauber and Ferrari personnel were actually robbed by the gang around the same time.

This happens every year here, there is always at least one group who are robbed on the way home, although these attacks are a step up on previous attacks.

Petty theft is also very common. Some Force India mechanics placed their bags in the boot of their car outside our hotel on Thursday and a gang ran out and stole them while they waited for a colleague.

I’ve been coming here for 20 years and it’s always been like this. Lots of fans have asked what we do to protect ourselves here, those of us without trained drivers and bulletproof cars. In general we take the car park pass off the car as we leave the circuit, hide our personal passes inside our shirts and then we look like anybody.

Obviously this sends out a very negative message about Brazil at a time when the country is booming; forecasts suggest that some time between now and 2014, Brazil will overtake Britain and France to become the world’s fifth largest economy. Millions of Brazilians have been lifted out of poverty by the economic surge in this country in the last ten years, but the extreme poverty is still very evident.

The country is set to host the 2014 football World Cup and then two years later the Olympic Games will be staged in Rio de Janeiro. It is hard to imagine that they will allow visitors to experience what Button and the mechanics experienced yesterday and therefore odd that the authorities don’t do more to protect F1 people when they run the gauntlet of the favella gangs every evening of the Grand Prix weekend.

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26 Comments
  1. mtb says:

    Glad to hear that the Button entourage escaped unscathed. I hope there were no injuries in any of the cars that were “bounced off”.

    Take care James!

  2. Jeb Hoge says:

    Wonderful that they remained unhurt but it’s a shame to hear about the other robberies. For a country that so loves Formula 1, you’d think the crooks would show a little respect. Maybe someone needs to have a word with the crime bosses…

    1. teamworkf1 says:

      People in the favellas don’t know what F1 is!!! Poverty IS poverty!!! Not easy to understand though!! ;)

    2. Jo Torrent says:

      It’s not a mafia mate. It’s worse, it’s a non organised crime system. The favelas actually are cities built without any permission from the state. These are extreme poverty ghettos where crime and drug traffic found a great land to flourish. These are out of law territories where the state has absolutely no control. Even during the CosaNostra worst years in Sicily (80s and early 90s) the state wasn’t banned from a territory.

      In the favelas only special police units go. There’s a great movie “Cidade de Deus” which treats the subject. If you haven’t seen it I guarantee you it’s worth it.

      On the world cup and Olympics the issues are much more complicated than a Formula 1 week-end, I don’t see how the Brazilian authorities can manage these issues. These crime habits are so rooted in the Brazilian society that it’s unsolvable in my view. They will struggle to secure the athletes in the Olympics let alone the spectators.

      As for F1, is the Brazilian grandprix going to stay after what’s happening every year. Nobody can rule out a tragic outcome. I’m stunned actually at how little protection you have.

  3. jmv says:

    what can you do, what can you say…? brazil is a country of immense contrasts. have been there a number of times… my well-off brazilian friends have never (or rarely) interacted with people from the lower class (living in the favela)… they warned me to stay away from favela’s, not to interact with people from there… (offcourse I did not follow their advice)

    it seems like 2 worlds (rich and poor) completely disconnected with both sides having extreme prejudice about the other.

    poverty makes people do stuff like this…

    i hope the brazilian government (and the well off brazilians) receive(s) this as a loud and clear message to do something about poverty…

    participate, develop and implement programmes to alleviate poverty.. give folks new (sustainable and competitive) opportunities.

    1. jmv says:

      so they can step into the footsteps of their great hero Ayrton… who was a well-off brazilian who committed himself to make a difference!

    2. Mario says:

      It is not only in Brazil it is everywhere. Watch the Fish Tank or Wasp film and you’ll see what happens to people in the UK.
      Poverty problem troubled human kind since this world’s been turning. How do you want to resolve it in a life time I do not know.

      There will always be poverty as long as people do not realise they actually create what is coming to them including material things.

      1. Michael C says:

        Absolutely right. This kind of thing was going on at traffic lights on the way to the airport at Malaga only 20 years ago and I had to do a milder version of Jenson’s drivers manoeuvres (as were many others)- to avoid the thieves (and the police were not too far away at the time but didn’t seem very interested)

  4. Sufyaan Patel says:

    Very sad indeed. Must be hard for the team personnel and drivers knowing they are targets each time they go to Brazil for a race. This reminds me of what happened in Pakistan when a rival teams bus was attacked. We all know what happened after that encounter! Won’t be surprised if Brazl suffer the same fate.

  5. ChrisS says:

    As you say, this venue has always had a reputation for this sort of thing. I think someone at FOM will be applying some pressure for the security situation to be improved or Interlagos will be the top of the list to be dropped from the calendar, which would be a great shame.

  6. Galapago555 says:

    Great to know that they all are OK.

    Hats off to the driver. Looks like all that “evasion techniques” are actually worthy!

    Hope Brazilian Police, Judges and Government can improve public security in the following years. I can’t imagine how a not-so-safe Olympics could be.

    And now I will cross my fingers again… :-D

  7. LMW says:

    Glad to hear JB is OK.

    The BBC’s News coverage of this incident left a little to be desired this afternoon – it was showing VT of Jenson in full Brawn GP gear and one reporter said it happened after a practice session.

  8. iGOR BdA says:

    As a Brazilian, I can tell you that Brazil is nothing more than a terrible wilderness.

    Forget about the economy.

    Normal people live in absolutely chaos.

    There is no respect for anybody and Brazilian people are always trying to work some angle to take some illicit advantage on you.

    Danger is everywhere. Really, I mean everywhere, at anytime of the day!

    Crime is completely different here than it is in Europe. Here no criminal or bandit will come to take on you relying on stealth or just a white weapon.

    They will come with heavy guns, even if only to take away your rist watch.

    The problem is not regarded as organized crime. There is in reality a very considerable part of “normal” population that indeed make a living out of violent acts.

    That is no lie! Ask anybody that has ever lived in Brazil about it and they will confirm.

    Foreigners have no idea how bad the situation here really is. Sometimes it’s even frustrating to realize that foreigners actually think that movies like “Elite Squad” or “Bus 157” are fictions exaggerations.

    Want know Brazil, watch those two movies. Documentaries wouldn’t be more truthful.

    Anyway, people are killed by thugs everyday and in absolutely every neighborhood of all middle sized cities. There is no such a thing as danger neighborhood or safe neighborhood. The worst and most violent crimes can happen anywhere.

    Want check for yourselves how terrible the violence in Brazil really is?

    Try to call the police (dial 190)… I bet US$ 100.000,00 that you will not be answered for – at the very a least – the first five or six times that you dial.

    Now, try to imagine dialing in a serious emergency situation…

    Oh yeah, but Brazil is going to host the WC and the OG so everything is fine then.

    :(

  9. rossetto says:

    Scrap Interlagos from the calendar.
    Simple as that.

    I could not believe when the assigned next world cup in Brazil.
    One of the highest crime rate in the world.

    1. Rafael says:

      Except that Bernie has looked the other way and callously dismissed the incident. I don’t get it: drivers and the Formula 1 elite continue to complain about the danger surrounding pit-lane entries, high kerbs, unsafe run off areas, circuit facilities etc. but never really complain or threaten circuits about more serious issues like these. Sure the top level guys are safe (drivers, VIPs, senior personnel), but what about the mid-level guys down (mechanics, truckies, journalists, etc.) who can’t afford/be afforded personal security?

      Clearly a sign of F1′s big names being out-of-touch with reality.

  10. Elly says:

    That’s a terrible story! I’m so glad Jenson and his companions are all right but pilots and all the rest F-1 representatives and media, of course, shouldn’t go through such an experience!

    Take care, James!

  11. jonrob says:

    “Scrap Interlagos from the calendar.
    Simple as that.”
    Yes we need to loose some of the old circuits, this is an obvious opportunity.
    Drivers expect their danger to be on the track not on the way to the hotel.
    The fact that it happens every year has been kept very quiet, how come our reporters have not mentioned it before this year?

    1. Adriano says:

      “Yes we need to loose some of the old circuits, this is an obvious opportunity.”

      If you want to get rid of Interlagos because it is not arguably safe for F1 to go to Brazil, then you have a point. Now, in my opinion, the old circuits like Spa, Suzuka, Monaco, Monza, Silverstone and Interlagos are the best out there. I think F1 should drop some of the new circuits, for instance, Istanbul Park. These generally lead to boring races.

  12. Gota says:

    Horrible thing that hurts immensely the image of Brazil.
    These bandits were the same that cheered like crazy for Senna, but unfortunately they are people with no morals and principles.
    Not to be confused with the vast majority of people who live in the Favelas and are hard honest workers. It has nothing to do with poverty.
    For the World Cup, authorities will probably negotiate with the Drug Dealers. Like they did for the Pan American games.
    PS: James, it spells “Favela”.

  13. Christine says:

    Maybe it hasn’t been reported previously as it never before involved a driver. Shame the BBC didn’t consider the Sauber team actually having to hand over bags to the armed robbers as equally newsworthy as Jenson’s. So glad noone was hurt. And it didn’t appear to ruin JB’s race. In fact he drove just like last year – brilliantly. Let’s hope Brazil can turn things round for their up coming major sporting events. And as for Mr Ecclestone saying he’s been going for forty years and never had a problem, well let’s see him send his daughters out and about in Sao Paulo then! Good luck to Mark Webber next week, he’s going to need all the luck he can get ‘cos even his own team don’t seem to want him to win! What an F1 season!!

  14. Paulinho says:

    I bet you anything if this happened in the UK our race would be dropped.

  15. Charles says:

    It looks like Bernie is turning a blind eye to the problems and suggesting that this is down to victim stupidity.

    I suggest that Bernie opening his mouth disproves this.

    Last two paragraphs of http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2010/nov/07/jenson-button-armed-attack-sao-paulo

  16. Alex says:

    Lucky bandits didn’t seal Webbers steering wheel or as leading driver he would have had to take Vettels – NOT!

  17. Rob says:

    Let`s face it the track and buildings are well out of date and knowing this sort of thing happens every year,It`s high time Brazil was dropped from the calendar.If this had happened in Europe Bernie would of pulled the plug years ago.

  18. Eamonn says:

    They are all lucky Jenson wasn’t driving.

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