Formula One teams get taste of Sao Paulo violence


Three Formula One teams, in Sao Paulo for the third Grand Prix race of the season, became victims of the violence that plagues South America’s largest city. The worst case involved Minardi team manager Tony Lees, who was held up at gunpoint by two assailants shortly after leaving a bank in downtown Sao Paulo on Thursday. “Tony went to the bank to withdraw close to US$8,000 to cover the weekend expenses of our 50-member crew,” said Minardi’s communications manager Graham Jones. “Seconds after he got in the taxi, two young, nervous men with guns forced him out of the car, pistol-whipped him a bit and ripped his watch off his wrist,” Jones said. “They demanded cash, but fortunately they didn’t see the expense money.” Besides the watch the assailants took about 50 English pounds, which Lees handed over to them. “He’s a bit stiff and sore and somewhat shaken up, but otherwise he is OK and working normally,” Jones said. Thieves later broke into the Minardi box that same night and stole seven wheels, Jones said. On Wednesday, members of the Jaguar team arrived at work and noticed that seven laptops — worth about US$20,000 — had been stolen from the team’s garage. “One of the laptops contained valuable technical information which will probably be of no use to the thieves,” said Nav Sidhu, Jaguar’s public relations officer. Seven new lap tops were shipped in from England “and we’re back in business,” Sidhu said. About six engineers of the Williams team escaped unhurt from an attempted holdup by a lone gunman on Thursday. The engineers were on the their way back to their hotel from the Interlagos track when their van stopped at a red light. “Out of nowhere a gunman appeared and pointed the weapon at the van,” said Silvia Hoffer, the team’s press officer. “Suddenly the light turned green and the driver sped away.” Police inspector Viviane Dias Vicente said none of the teams had filed a complaint. She would not comment further.