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Formula 1 commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone has responded to fresh criticisms of Brazilian Grand Prix host city São Paulo by saying that the race should not be removed from the calendar, despite the armed incidents involving World Champion Jenson Button and members of the Sauber team over the weekend.
Thankfully, Button plus father John, the driver’s manager and physiotherapist were all able to escape their scene of danger – when confronted by several armed men in a carjack attempt on Saturday night – thanks to the quick reactions of their specially-trained driver, who was able to weave through traffic notwithstanding contact with other vehicles.
Unfortunately, several members of Sauber were less fortunate when they were forced to hand over numerous possessions by a shanty-town gang on Avenida Interlagos – a part of road notorious with such happenings.
It has also emerged that a group of Formula 1 photographers lost some 65,000 pounds-worth of equipment after being threatened at gunpoint.
However, FOM head Ecclestone does not believe that the event – which made its first appearance in 1973 - should be scrapped from the sport’s calendar.
“I have been coming here for over 40 years,” the Englishman is quoted as saying by The Daily Telegraph. “I have walked around, driven, been out in restaurants in the city and never seen or heard anything threatening. I’m as safe here as anywhere in the world. How many of these incidents get reported to the police? Very few.
“I think they look for victims who are not too bright; all the people who have been robbed seem to be people outside the top ten of the grid - maybe that’s what they target, I don’t know.”
Triple World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart shared his opinion:
“Everyone knows security issues like the one Jenson was exposed to are a fact of life out here. I have very heavy security, I always have had here. I have armed security and two or three cars with me - one in front and sometimes one behind too. My car is bullet-proof and bomb-proof.
“Part of the danger is the risk of kidnap and there are rumours here that it’s linked to the drug trade, but drug barons don’t kill people unless it’s out of spite; they kidnap them because they are linked to rich multinational companies - in Jenson’s case that means Vodafone and Mobil. Jenson was lucky he had a good driver and security guard.
“I really don’t think the race will be taken off the calendar because of this. Who is suggesting that we shouldn’t race here? Certainly not me. We have raced here for years. Most people have no trouble if they’re sensible.”
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