Aside from the major headline that Red Bull has taken its first Constructors’ Championship title, the weekend’s other big headline was Jenson Button’s lucky escape from an armed robbery attempt on Saturday evening, and reports also emerged that three Sauber engineers were held up at gunpoint en route to their Sao Paulo hotel.
“I’ve been coming here for 40-odd years, walking about, and I’ve never, ever had a problem,” he told reporters at the Interlagos circuit.
Historically, past events in Brazil have seen muggings occur on team members, but the recent cases put the spotlight back on a well-known problem in the poverty stricken favella regions surrounding the Sao Paulo circuit.
There had been suggestions in the wake of these recent incidents that Brazil would risk losing its hosting rights, but such an eventuality would deprive Formula 1 of its sole visit to South America, which is a substantial slice of its popularity base where the 2010 grid currently sees four local drivers in competition.
Senior team figures are well aware that the loss of the Brazilian event would be catastrophic for the sport, and organisers seemed mindful of this as well, ramping up security checks on race day to improve everyone’s safety.
“I don’t think [the organisers] can be responsible for what goes on outside here, there is a limit to what the [they] can do,” McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said on Sunday. “I think we have heard about it over the years, but it has clearly escalated, I am told there were five incidents [this year] – and when they start carrying machine guns then it starts taking on slightly bigger levels. So that is worrying.”
He added: “But Brazil has a soccer World Cup and an Olympic Games coming, so it is something that they are going to have to work quite hard on in this country, so I am sure they will.”
Ferrari’s team principal Stefano Domenicali expressed similar sentiments to Whitmarsh, and was mindful that Brazil is also one of the car marker’s largest markets.
“We know that anywhere in the world something bad can happen,” he said. “I think that we need to thank all the organisers here that are trying to do the maximum they can and I would like to stress this positive point, because also this week I know people had some problems.
“We didn’t do any extra precautions, we will try to normal stuff but once again I would like to stress the fact that here in Brazil the atmosphere is really great. All the fans here were cheering Ferrari and this is one thing that you do not have to forget, the passion for F1, also for Brazilian drivers and our brand.”
Do you believe that safety precautions should be increased for future South American events, or should the event be scrapped entirely until the crime issues are addressed? Post your comments below…
[Original images via GP Update]