SAO PAULO (AP) - 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 hurt.
“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 techniques.
“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 car.
“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.