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VIP Close Protection

Will security be boosted for Formula 1 Drivers at this year Brazilian Grand Prix after the potential kidnap attempt of Jenson Button last year.

It has been 11 months since McLaren-Mercedes F1 driver Jenson Button fell victim of an apparent armed kidnap attempt during a car journey from the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo, where he had earlier finished Saturdays qualifying session for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Jenson was travelling in an armoured Mercedes with his father John, manager Richard Goddard and physiotherapist Mile Collier at the time of the incident.

A group of men brandishing machine guns had approached them whilst they were in their car in a busy street on their way back to their hotel after qualifying.

Fortunately no one was injured during the incident as their driver reacted quickly and sped through the traffic to whisk Jenson and the other occupants of the car to safety.

Sao Paolo is the 4th largest city in the world with around 19 million people living there, it is also one of South America’s most violent cities.  Because the risks are so high McLaren provide Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, reinforced armoured vehicles driven by specialist close protection officers trained in evasive driving techniques.

Afterwards Jenson described the attack as a ‘horrible’ experience.  He is also reported to have called his Close Protection driver a ‘legend’ after he quickly got them safely from the scene.  He was glad that on this occasion his girlfriend Jessica Michibata was not travelling with him in the car.

Formula 1 is renown for its glamour and glitz on and off the track with Jenson reputed to earn around £6 million a season.  The Sao Paulo racetrack is situated next to one of the poorest areas of the city and the opportunity for some to cash in on crime during the race weekend may be a risk worth taking for local criminals.

After last years incident F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone commented that he has never felt threatened in all the years he has been visiting Sao Paulo.

In a bizarre twist of fate Bernie Ecclestone suffered a brutal mugging attack whilst out with his Brazilian girlfriend Fabiana Flosi in London shortly after the Brazilian Grand Prix.  The attack took place outside his Formula One Holdings offices in Knightsbridge.  He was attacked, kicked and punched to the floor and the muggers made off with their watches and jewelry.  At that time similar attacks on the rich and famous were happening in the London area and Police believe the attack was planned.