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"I've been coming here for more than 40 years, not just for the race," Ecclestone told Reuters on Sunday at the Brazilian GP when told of Jenson Button's near mugging. "I've run on the beach here in the morning early with watches on and never been mugged, never seen anyone being mugged.

"Normally like in America or anywhere you go there are people getting mugged. In London, it's a funny thing you know - surprising in Oxford Street the number of people that get mugged there hourly," he declared, referring to the crowded central shopping thoroughfare.

Ecclestone, who got into hot water last year when he suggested Adolf Hitler was a man "who got things done", said Button might have kept out of trouble by qualifying higher up the grid.

"They look for victims, they look for anyone that looks like a soft touch and not too bright," said the billionaire, whose current girlfriend is Brazilian.

"The people that look a bit soft and simple, they will always have a go at.

"I think here for the race weekend they probably watch TV and see who's not qualified in the top 10 and think well they must be a bit stupid otherwise they would qualify in the top 10 obviously. So they are victims."

Ecclestone inquired, with feigned ignorance, where McLaren's Button had qualified.  Told it was 11th, he replied: "There you are you see, I have to rest my case."

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