Jenson Button fearless in Sao Paulo despite painful memories


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The Independent Online

Jenson Button returns to Sao Paulo this weekend without any fear despite memories still fresh of being held up at gunpoint a year ago.

Security is to be beefed up for this season's Brazilian Grand Prix after a spate of incidents over the years culminating in the attack on Button last November he described at the time as "horrendous".

Button, along with father John, manager Richard Goddard and trainer Mike Collier, had just left the Interlagos circuit after qualifying on Saturday when a group of armed assailants approached their car.

Fortunately for the quartet the armoured B-class Mercedes was being driven by a police officer trained in avoidance techniques.

The driver used the car as a battering ram to force his way through a group of cars ahead that had stopped at a set of traffic lights.

It was only by his quick thinking and actions that any of the party avoided injury, allowing Button to compete in the race the following day.

Looking back on the incident now, Button told Press Association Sport: "Something was going to happen.

"It had happened so many times with the mechanics and engineers, and in the end it was going to happen to a driver.

"I don't think they wanted anything except for our bags out of the boot.

"But we have more security this year. I think every driver you see will have a police escort, and they should do.

"But you have to spare a thought for everyone else in Formula One because they don't have police escorts.

"So yeah, it's a tough one because it's such a good grand prix. I love racing at Sao Paulo.

"There is a special atmosphere, even when your team-mate is Brazilian (as in 2009 with Rubens Barrichello) and you are fighting for the world championship.

"I still love it there because they are so passionate, and there is so much history at that circuit.

"It's a pity things do happen there when we leave the circuit, but I think that just shows the divide in Brazil."

Last year on the same night as Button's incident, a group of Sauber mechanics were held up at gunpoint after leaving the circuit and forced to hand over their belongings.

Formula One Management personnel were also robbed after they had stopped to change a tyre on their vehicle, whilst a handful of photographers had their equipment stolen throughout the weekend.

The city is renowned for its gun crime, but asked whether he had any fears in returning, Button replied: "No, not at all."

Instead, the 31-year-old McLaren star is determined to end what has been a relatively successful year on a high.

Whilst title hopes disappeared long ago, Button is guaranteed at least finishing ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, and needs to finish third on Sunday to assure himself of the championship runner -up spot.

One final win, though, is all Button seeks, which if achieved would see him finish the second half of the season - since his victory in Hungary - with more points than double world champion Sebastian Vettel.

But given he has only finished on the podium once in the past 11 years, that is easier said than done.

"If I can qualify well, in the top few places, that will be a big step forward for me because last year I qualified 13th, and that was my best qualifying for five years," said Button.

"So it's been a difficult one for me on Saturdays in Brazil, but Sundays have always been very good, so I'm excited about it, and it would be lovely to get the last win of the season.

"The car is obviously working well, and it would be nice to beat Seb over the second half of the season.

"So I'm looking forward to the last race, hopefully a good sign off, and then start it all over again next year."