Jenson Button's highly-publicised brush with Sao Paulo's darker side was not the only incident involving the F1 fraternity as they left the Interlagos circuit after qualifying on Saturday night.
A group of Sauber engineers travelling back to their hotel were robbed at gunpoint shortly after Button escaped unharmed from a similar attempt while stopped in traffic. Again, machine guns were reportedly being toted by the thieves, who were this time able to make off with possessions after getting access to the team's vehicle.
"They left the track, three engineers together in a van, at around 8pm," a team source told Reuters
, "They had to stop at a red light and, all of a sudden, five people were around the car, one with a machine gun. They opened the door, took two rucksacks and disappeared. Nobody was injured."
The attempted carjacking incident involving Button made the headlines overnight, after McLaren confirmed that the reigning world champion only escaped six armed assailants thanks to the quick thinking of a police driver hired by McLaren to protect its prize asset. The Briton and an entourage comprising his father John, manager Richard Goddard and physio Mike Collier were also protected by an armoured Mercedes employed for just such an eventuality, but admitted to being 'terrified' by the incident.
"I didn't know what was going to happen," he told Britain's Mail on Sunday
newspaper, "The driver just floored it. We must have bounced off about five cars – we were driving over the top of them – but we got out of there. He was an absolute legend.”
The Brazilian Grand Prix has frequently been blighted by reports of robberies and muggings, both in Rio de Janeiro and, since the move to Interlagos, in Sao Paulo, where the shanty towns, or favelas
sit notoriously alongside one of the richest sports in the world. Although team personnel are advised not to wear clothing that marks them out as part of the F1 fraternity, it has not prevented attempts on property or person, with Toyota team members being robbed at gunpoint in 2006 and former BBC
commentator Murray Walker also being a victim.
The two incidents this year will no doubt lead to calls for Brazil to be axed from the schedule, but the race has survived similar events in the past and, as South America's only representative on the calendar, is likely to remain.