Bottas clinches pole after Hamilton crash

Bottas clinches pole after Hamilton crash

Formula One title holder Lewis Hamilton's first competitive action since winning the world championship lasted less than two minutes as he crashed out of qualifying for the race.

A Mercedes spokesman said: "We can confirm that a team minibus was robbed at gunpoint last night leaving the circuit".

Hamilton turned in a fastest lap time of 1:09.202 - a new track record at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace - to finish one-tenth of a second clear of Bottas at the head of the field as both Ferrari and Red Bull struggled to put up any kind of fight in FP1. "This is so upsetting to hear", world champion Hamilton tweeted.

"Please say a prayer for my guys who are here as professionals today even if shaken".

In 2010, a vehicle carrying former McLaren driver Jenson Button was approached by three gunmen near Interlagos circuit. In a statement, Mercedes said, "Valuables were stolen but everybody is safe and uninjured which is the main thing".

Mechanics and other staff travel to and from the track by minibus and are advised against wearing branded team clothing away from the circuit.

"I'm OK. It happened really quickly", Hamilton said.

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This incident comes at a time when the Brazilian Grand Prix and Brazilian motor sport faces an uncertain future.

Members of the Williams team and officials of the FIA, motorsports' governing body, were also targeted by robbers, the BBC's chief Formula One writer Andrew Benson tweeted early Saturday.

Some six men with automatic guns ambushed Button and his team as he left the Interlagos circuit.

Past year in Mexico, a team member, travelling in a chauffeur-driven vehicle from Mexico City Airport to the Mercedes' hotel, was targeted by two gunmen.

Button described his driver as a "legend" after he managed to get the Briton to safety by fleeing through traffic.

Three Sauber engineers were robbed at gunpoint on the same evening.

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