- Associated Press - Saturday, November 6, 2010

SAO PAULO (AP) - Armed men attempted to attack the car carrying defending Formula One champion Jenson Button as he left the track after qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix on Saturday, his team said.

McLaren said Button was driven away from danger and nobody was hurt in what appeared to be a robbery attempt near the Interlagos circuit in South America’s biggest city.

“Armed would-be assailants made an attempt to approach the car that was carrying Jenson Button,” McLaren said in a statement.

McLaren said the driver of Button’s vehicle “reacted swiftly and, using avoidance techniques, rapidly forced his way through the traffic, taking Jenson and the other occupants of the car immediately away from any danger and back to their hotel.”

There were no reports of shots being fired and nothing appeared to have been stolen or damaged.

Button’s father, John, also was in the car, as were his physiotherapist, Mike Collier, and manager Richard Goddard.

McLaren said it had provided Button and teammate Lewis Hamilton with reinforced armored vehicles driven by armed police drivers trained in avoidance techniques.

“Sao Paulo authorities have also acted efficiently and will be providing additional security to transfer Jenson and other senior Vodafone McLaren Mercedes personnel to the Interlagos circuit for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix,” McLaren said.

The authorities in charge of the case couldn’t be immediately contacted.

Every year local authorities increase security around the track, which is located in the middle of the city in a mostly poor neighborhood.

There have been reports of similar attacks in the past against spectators and even other F1 teams.

In 2007, a group of gun-wielding youths held up spectators in three cars leaving the circuit. No one was hurt.

Attacks by robbers on drivers who stop on traffic lights or slow their cars in areas with intense traffic are not uncommon in Brazil, mainly in poorer areas.

Gang members have been known to take advantage of the high number of people attending the Brazilian GP at Interlagos, although there have not been reports of assailants specifically targeting teams or foreign journalists covering the event. Many times they don’t know that they are attacking team members.

Security at big sporting events has been a major concern to local authorities as the country will host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Button, who won the 2009 title with Brawn GP, is fifth in this year’s drivers’ championship and has a remote chance of repeating as champion. He is 42 points behind leader Fernando Alonso of Ferrari with two races to go.

The British driver will start from 11th in Sunday’s race at Interlagos.

The season-finale is next weekend in Abu Dhabi.

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