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.
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.