‘It happens every year, there’s no excuse’: Mercedes staff robbed at gunpoint

2017 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton has revealed several of his Mercedes team members were robbed at gunpoint on Friday evening at Sao Paolo.

“Some of my team were held up at gun point last night leaving the circuit here in Brazil,” said Hamilton on Twitter. “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.”

“This happens every single year here,” added Hamilton. “F1 and the teams need to do more, there’s no excuse!”

Mercedes confirmed one of the team’s minibuses was robbed at gunpoint after leaving the Interlagos circuit. Valuables were taken but no one was harmed.

Armed muggings have been a persistent problem for F1 teams visiting Sao Paolo. Mercedes team members were also robbed last year. In 2010 Jenson Button was among the victims of an armed attack.

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    33 comments on “‘It happens every year, there’s no excuse’: Mercedes staff robbed at gunpoint”

    1. Armed security in all the team vehicles would be my suggestion. Maybe if they shot a couple of these robbers they’d stop thinking that GP team personnel are an easy target every year.

      1. Yeah, or they start a gunfight and someone gets killed…

        1. @george yes it’s escalating the force, but what else do you suggest? have the team sleep at the track? or just be OK with being robbed every year, should F1 remove poverty from the entire city?

          1. @dr-jekyll
            I’m hardly an expert, perhaps having police escorted convoys would help. I know team members like to leave at different times, but considering the real threat it could be something they have to work around.

            1. The solution is to blend in a lot more and not ride around in shiny new mini buses. Hire local drivers in cars that blend in and use those to travel between the track and the accommodation. Very often these types of incidents can be avoided altogether by knowing which areas to avoid and then by not stopping in areas in vulnerable places.

              This is basic advice that almost any security professional would give them. F1 team could feasibly hire local security professionals or police to travel with them too. It is not that expensive when you consider the rest of the budget.

          2. Well, there is the option of not running a track which is in the middle of a slum.

            This probably would not happen at the Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet in Brasília.

            1. Given that the track no longer exists, I’d wager not.

      2. Patricio Garcia
        11th November 2017, 17:02

        Maybe police escort, from something like Bope? Google it.

    2. In Di Spire’s great book about her experiences behind the scenes in F1 (“I Just Made the Tea” – highly recommended!) she devotes a chapter to experiences at the Brazilian GP. Some both troubling and hearth-wrenching stuff there. Sad to see that it still applies.

    3. Not that I condone these actions but I’ll feel that the most expensive sport in the world, flaunting its wealth in the face of complete poverty will always lead to situations like this.

      1. But a van full of Mercedes mechanics leaving the track is hardly flaunting its wealth, is it @davef1?

        1. Not sure what your point is but the fact that valuable items were stolen suggests that this wasn’t a random attack on a bus that just so happened to be full F1 related personnel.

          Of course they’re not going to attempt to rob the garages at the circuit.

          1. Valuables were probably mundane items like watches, phones, & wallets.

        2. Well, I’ll assume the point being made is F1’s very presence there is flaunting, not literally a van leaving the track. Perhaps their presence isn’t even so much as flaunting, but is an opportunity to some that they look forward to every year, for all the wrong reasons.

    4. Hate to say it, but they shouldn’t race there at all with this going on.

      1. I have to agree with John H, as much as I love Inter Lagos ….

    5. Personally, if this kind of thing is happening, the circuit organisers need to be doing something about it, not F1 or the teams. If it keeps happening like it does then stop going there, it’s not worth it.

    6. Which is why I always hated having to work the race, I always tried to pick Brazil as one of my races off….. As did a lot of the other FOM staff who worked the rotation.

      Interlagos is a great track, But every time you were traveling to/from the track & even at times when you were actually inside the circuit grounds you never felt totally safe & every year I was there something happened to somebody.

      1. No need to fear Brazil; I have lived there for many years and attended F1 a few times.

        My advice was always the same for visitors:
        1) leave your valuables (see above) at home, and
        2) don’t stop for red lights at night (treat red like flashing yellow/orange).

        1. no need to fear brazil

          don’t stop for red lights at night

    7. Was waiting for the yearly gun robbery story out of Brazil, wasn’t disappointed.

    8. This sort of thing really puts me off ever visiting. My wife and I have been working our way through the entire calendar but we’re genuinely nervous about ever trying Brazil.

    9. There are many many more decent people in Sao Paolo than robbers. Should decent people be denied their legal enjoyment over the acts of a minority? If it’s a known risk then they should be able to deal with it, and if they didn’t, then someone screwed up. There’s enough cash in F1 to cope with this so someone clearly failed. Interlagos circuit is somewhat unusual in that there are some extremely poor areas surrounding the track, and with the ostentatious wealth of F1, it’s like a red rag to a bull. I’m not justifying violent criminal behaviour (I am a victim myself) but if there’s a risk of it, it should be managed. There’s history here at this track, so someone clearly failed in their duty. I do feel however, that with the sheer amount of wealth on show here at this weekend, that some effort be made to ameliorate the grinding poverty of the area. If this already happens then please excuse me for my ignorance..

    10. Armed robbery is just a Brazilian pastime. F1 members just need to respect Brazilian culture and accept it.

    11. It’s São Paulo.

    12. I feel sorry for the guys who got robbed. They have it really hard – working crazy hours and spending months away from home, and one of them get’s a gun pointed at his head for his trouble. While it won’t make up for the shock/trauma of the affair, aren’t they all due like a £10k bonus for winning the constructors?

    13. What they need to do in São Paulo is stop riding around in shiny vehicles and provide more security around Interlagos, or give the team members devices that alerts the authorities immediately if something like this is to happen. Riding around in shiny vehicles is like flashing a big sign over the vehicle that says “rob me”. Blending in is the idea.

      1. *Riding around in shiny vehicles in São Paulo is like flashing a big sign over the vehicle that says “rob me”.

    14. Mark in Florida
      11th November 2017, 19:36

      Poverty is endemic in Brazil. Is it F1’s job to cure it or the government that the people elected? No country wants another country or organization to tell it how to live or to change their ways even if the advice is correct. People tend to do the same thing over and over again and making money through robbery is just another business enterprise it pays so that’s what they do. The cure for the situation is to simply not go there any more. Why put up with such a violent situation year after year? The violence will escalate till someone is shot or killed eventually that is simply the odds. Don’t feel sorry for violent thieves feel sorry for the violated.

    15. It is spawned from inequality. When one person is worth more than the efforts of thousands of others then that one person is going to have to watch their back.

      Effective taxation systems are designed to assist inequality spiraling to a point where there is societal breakdown.

      The irony and timing of the paradise paper release. Its not lewis fault or the poor. These are just real life examples. If you dont get the balance right history has already taught many many lessons.

      In Brazil the balance is out further than what the UK are used to.

    16. Just go to another country The mere threat of that would wake up the Brazilian authorities to do something about this

      1. I doubt it. Especially when there’s significant corruption.

    17. Stop having the grand prix there full stop! Safety comes first and if this has happened a number of times then kick the track where it hurt. It will stop money coming there area but if they cant guarantee safety of team then sorry pull out!

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