Mercedes’ celebrations were cut short as Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team were dragged back down to Earth. At gun point. Before the weekend had begun in earnest, a minibus full of Mercedes personnel was stopped and robbed by armed assailants. The people involved were shaken but nobody was injured.
This is not the first time that events such as this have taken place at Sao Paulo. There has been a string of incidents involving high profile drivers like Jenson Button, who was threatened by gunmen ahead of the 2010 race. A few years ago, the mother-in-law of the then Formula One Supremo Bernie Ecclestone was taken hostage and held for several days. The problem is not limited to Brazil, in fact this wasn’t the first time in the last twelve months that Mercedes personnel have been robbed at gun-point; an incident occurring at the Mexican Grand Prix last season in which an armed gunman robbed a Mercedes team member.
This is a problem that F1 has, through no fault of their own, created for themselves. The reputation of the sport, the glamour, and the money are part of the sport. The problem is possibly exacerbated by the fact that many of the incidents involving teams and personnel have resulted from the fact they are transported to and from their hospitality in mini-buses.
However, the continuation of these incidents and their unfortunate propensity to happen to the less protected members of the team personnel indicates the host countries could do more to protect the mechanics and other less high-profile people that surround the teams as they go around the world. It is out of the question that the F1 circus should have to leave circuits off the calendar in favour of so-called ‘safer venues.’
Sao Paulo is