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Mercedes team rush to fly home from Brazil

Sao Paulo, Monday @peoplesport11

Several of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team brought forward their travel plans by a day to leave Sao Paulo after a terrifying hold-up at gunpoint. The F1 community has been on edge after four alarming incidents over the weekend, the most shocking of which befell eight members of Hamilton’s crew, mostly mechanics, at around 10pm on Friday.

One had a gun pointed at his head while the group had laptops, wallets and passports stolen when held up in dense traffic on their journey from Interlagos to their hotel. Since then, police convoys have escorted teams to and from the track.

Organisers also issued advice on not wearing kit or passes that would identify travellers as F1 personnel. Hamilton has been an outspoken critic of the sport’s powers-that-be for not doing enough to combat a threat that has been a regular feature of the Sao Paulo race. Jenson Button escaped an attempted mugging here in 2010, when world champion. “I was horrified to hear what happened,” said Hamilton.

He added: “The frustrating thing is I have been in F1 for 10 years and every year that has happened to someone in the paddock. Things should be in place to keep everyone safe. And it’s for the people at the top to take action to keep everyone safe.

It’s no good just the bosses or myself having security, everyone else needs to be looked after.” Officials from the FIA, motorsport’s governing body, were targeted by hooded youths who tapped a gun at the window of their car.

However, the windows were bullet-proof and the muggers could not get inside. Williams staff also witnessed a robbery ahead of them in traffic. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel bounced back from his world championship disappointment in fine style on Sunday when he won a sunlit Brazilian Grand Prix for Ferrari.

The four-time champion took the lead at the start and, apart from a period after his pit-stop, controlled an incident-packed race to finish 2.8 seconds ahead of pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes.

Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 champion, resisted late challenges from newly-crowned four-time champion Lewis Hamilton to hang on to third ahead of the second Mercedes driver, who had started the race from the pit lane.

Dutchman Max Verstappen came home fifth ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Australian Daniel Ricciardo and retirement-bound local hero Felipe Massa, a rousing seventh for Williams in his final home city race. -AGENCIES

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