Members of the Mercedes Formula 1 team was robbed at gunpoint on Friday night in Sao Paulo, where the Brazil Grand Prix will be held on Sunday.
The incident occurred just hours after British driver Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time in both practice sessions at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo on Friday.
Mercedes confirmed the holdup and said that only “valuables were stolen.”
“They stole objects of value but the most important thing is that nobody was hurt,” explained the spokesperson of the team, who informed the police on Saturday morning.
Writing on Twitter, Hamilton, the 2017 Formula 1 champion, said that “some of my team were held up at gunpoint last night leaving the circuit here in Brazil. Gun shots fired, gun held at one’s head. This is so upsetting to hear.”
Hamilton also called on Formula 1 to improve security around the tracks. “This happens every single year here. F1 and the teams need to do more. There’s no excuse,” he added.
According to local news portal Globo Esporte, several vehicles were stopped by armed assailants as they were leaving Interlagos at around 8pm local time. A Williams team van and a car carrying members of auto racing governing body FIA were also assaulted, it said.
Former driver Niki Lauda, one of the team’s managers, told Globo TV that “we are all worried. It was just one car, our team has more people and we will be careful when going out tonight, but we need more protection.”
“I have spoken with Tamas (Rohonyi, Brazil GP promoter) to know what can be done and I asked not to let people leave the autodrome without being safe,” added Lauda.
Attacks around the Interlagos track are a known risk. Drivers leave and enter their hotel under police escort and in bulletproof vehicles.
However, mechanics and other team members travel in minibuses although they are told to avoid wearing clothing with team markers outside the track.
After the incidents, all those remaining inside Interlagos were provided with police escorts.
In a statement, the Sao Paulo state security department confirmed it was aware of Friday’s events and said it was reinforcing police patrols around the circuit.
“There are motorcycle teams and riot squads in addition to normal battalions in the area,” it said in a statement.