Button says attack was ‘scary situation’

Formula One champion Jenson Button knows good driving when he

sees it and credited the undercover police officer driving his car

with getting him and his companions out of a ”scary situation”

Saturday night.

Button, his father, physiotherapist Mike Collier and manager

Richard Goddard had left the track after qualifying for the

Brazilian Grand Prix when a group of armed men attempted to attack

their armored Mercedes.

”The driver was a legend, a great guy, he got us out of

trouble,” Button told The Associated Press as he arrived at the

Interlagos track for Sunday’s race.

Button, who was sitting in the front seat, said the driver

rammed through several vehicles and sped to safety. No one was


”We got between six cars to get past and got away,” Button

said at a news conference. ”Looking behind there were two guys

with hand guns and one guy with what looked like a machine gun.

”It was a pretty scary situation. It’s not a very comfortable

feeling, not great.”

In another attack Saturday night, three Sauber engineers were

robbed just outside the Interlagos track, heightening security

concerns as the country prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and the

2016 Olympics in Rio.

”Security is a matter for the local authorities and we have

absolute confidence that the Brazilian and Rio authorities will

provide a safe and secure games in six years time,” International

Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams told the AP.

Attacks on drivers who stop at traffic lights or slow their cars

in areas with intense traffic are not uncommon in Brazil and

McLaren provided Button and teammate Lewis Hamilton with armored

vehicles driven by armed police drivers trained in avoidance


”We were probably unlucky more than anything else,” Button

said, adding the assailants all looked ”quite young.”

The Briton said his party left the track at about 7 p.m. local

time and the attack happened when their car stopped at a traffic

light a little more than a half mile from the track.

”The driver obviously didn’t feel comfortable and stopped about

a car length back,” Button said. ”We looked to the right and saw

five or six guys walk out of this building at the edge of the road.

They looked suspicious. Then they started running toward the


”He floored it, banging through other cars and eventually got

through. He did quite a job, really did.”

Sao Paulo authorities said that they had not been notified of

the attack.

Gang members have been known to be attracted by the crowds

attending the Brazilian GP, prompting police to increase security

around the Interlagos track, which is located in the middle of the

city in a mostly poor neighborhood. Even so, there have been

reports of similar attacks in the past.

In 2007, a group of gun-wielding youths held up spectators in

three cars leaving the circuit, and in 2006 members of the Toyota

team were attacked by armed youths as they left the track. No one

was hurt.

Button said he believed Saturday’s attack was random.

”It happens every year, but it’s the first time that it has

happened to a driver,” he said. ”It’s not a very nice feeling

having to come to work in a bulletproof car with a policeman as the

driver and two police cars, one in front and one in back, but

that’s the way it is.”

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone downplayed the attack and

said it could have happened anywhere.

”I’ve been coming here for 40-odd years, walking about, and

I’ve never, ever had a problem,” Ecclestone told the Press

Association. ”That’s not just for the race, but at other times

when I’ve been here too. I’ve also never been around where I’ve

seen anybody have a problem.”

Veteran Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello said on his Twitter

page that it was ”a shame” that the incident happened.

Button finished fifth in Sunday’s race after starting 11th on

the grid. The result eliminated him from the drivers’ championship.

Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull was first at Interlagos, followed by

teammate Mark Webber and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

The last race is next weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Associated Press writers Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo and Stephen

Wilson in London contributed to this report.