Pirelli axe tyre test after spate of armed robberies

LONDON • In the wake of a fourth armed robbery attempt involving Formula One personnel in just three days, Pirelli and McLaren have cancelled a tyre test scheduled for the Brazilian Grand Prix circuit this week.

In the first incident last Friday, a car containing officials from world motor sport governing body, the FIA, was approached by masked gunmen, while members of the Williams team witnessed the attack.

Later the same night, eight members of world champion Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes team were robbed at gunpoint after leaving the circuit.

Staff from Sauber were also held up as they left the circuit on Saturday.

A robbery attempt on a Pirelli van after Sunday's race, which was thwarted by the team's security staff, was the latest incident.

They will raise question marks over the future of a race that has been a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar since 1990.

McLaren and Pirelli had intended to stay in Sao Paulo this week. British driver Lando Norris had flown to Brazil to take part in the two-day tyre test alongside Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne.

That was scrapped after staff expressed their frustrations and unease over the lack of security.

McLaren employees were said to be relieved the scheduled test had been cancelled.

Sunday's attack on the Pirelli van took place after security had supposedly been tightened at the track.

"Following a robbery attempt, neutralised by Pirelli security, on a Pirelli van at the Interlagos circuit last Sunday... it has been decided to cancel the tyre test," the official F1 tyre supplier said in a statement yesterday.

The decision was taken with McLaren and the FIA in the interest of safety.

McLaren's executive director Zak Brown said: "The circuit needs to get its act together because it's not acceptable," he said.

"If we are going to travel to places, we need to make sure that the government and city are doing a good job keeping everyone safe."

The FIA had promised "heavy police reinforcements" for the weekend.

Unlike regular team staff, race drivers travel to and from the Interlagos circuit with police escorts and in bulletproof cars.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2017, with the headline 'Pirelli axe tyre test after spate of armed robberies'. Print Edition | Subscribe