27 October 2023

Max Verstappen urges fans to show him respect ahead of feisty Mexican Grand Prix

27 October 2023

Max Verstappen has told the boo brigade to show him some respect as the triple world champion prepares to enter the lion’s den at Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Verstappen has beefed up his security for Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez’s home race at the high-altitude Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez venue in Mexico City.

Verstappen, who was jeered by Perez’s supporters a week ago in Austin, Texas, is prepared for another hostile reception this weekend – and he will be flanked by multiple security guards in the paddock.

Organisers of the event – which is set to attract a crowd of nearly 400,000 over the three days – have appealed to fans for tolerance by launching the #Racepect initiative. Verstappen was jeered by Perez’s travelling fans in Miami earlier this year, while Lewis Hamilton was also booed here last year.

“The hashtag doesn’t need to suit me,” said Verstappen. “It needs to suit the behaviour of the people and it is good to raise awareness because the behaviour of the crowd at some places can be better.

“In Austin, it was against me. Supporting your favourite driver is fine, but you also have to respect the competition.

“It is not only in Formula One, but is a general problem in a lot of sports that needs to be looked at and needs to be improved.”

Perez’s fans remain unhappy Verstappen did not help the Mexican secure second place in last season’s championship after he ignored a team order at the penultimate round in Brazil.

Perez has won only twice this season – his last victory in Azerbaijan on April 30 – with Verstappen racing to his third title in as many years.

But the Dutchman added: “The rivalry with Sergio is made up. We get on really well. As a driver you try to be first or faster, but we have a lot of respect for each other and we appreciate each other’s performances.

“For me, I feel very safe. I have had a great reception so far, and it is good to be back.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and motorsport advisor Dr Helmut Marko will also be accompanied by security guards. Last month, Marko, 80, referred to Perez’s background when discussing his driver’s inconsistent form.

He said: “Let’s remember that he (Perez) is South American and so he is not as focused as Max Verstappen or Sebastian Vettel was.”

Marko apologised for the remarks, but Hamilton believes Perez deserves greater support from within Red Bull.

The seven-time world champion said: “As a driver, I understand the psychological and mental pressures weigh so heavily on you. It is difficult to put into words.

“Sergio has carried himself really well, but I don’t think his team has been massively supportive – one spokesperson in particular has not been really great in helping him.

“If I heard (Mercedes team principal) Toto (Wolff) talking negatively about me it would be tough. It is a difficult environment for him, but he has dealt with it to the best of his ability.”

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