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

By Sports Desk October 27, 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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    Leclerc beat Oscar Piastri by 0.154 seconds for his third pole in the last four races in Monaco, where Ferrari have excelled on the narrow track layout, high kerbs and slow-speed corners.

    Verstappen was seeking history by surpassing Ayrton Senna for an eighth successive pole in Qualifying, while maintaining his perfect record at the start of the season.

    However, the runaway Drivers' Championship leader hit the wall at Sainte Devote on his final lap, and had to settle for sixth on a track where overtaking is regarded as the most difficult on the calendar.

    Leclerc now hopes he and Ferrari can now convert their position at the head of the grid into victory, having failed to do so in each of the last two years.

    "It was nice. The feeling after a qualifying lap is always very special here," he said. "[I am] really, really happy about the lap, the excitement is so high, but it feels really good.

    "But now, I know more often than not, qualifying is not everything. As much as it counts, we need to put everything together on the Sunday. In past years, we did not manage to do it, but we are a stronger team now, and I am sure we can achieve the target."

    His Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz was third, though he faces an investigation for impeding Williams' Alex Albon in the first session, ahead of Lando Norris and George Russell.

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    Verstappen could make history by surpassing Ayrton Senna with an eighth successive pole in Qualifying, and maintaining his perfect record at the start of the campaign.

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    "In Monaco, you might have some surprises," Verstappen said. "It's one of the more difficult tracks for us.

    "In the last few years, Ferrari have always been very, very strong here. Plus, McLaren lately - the last two races - really ramped up in performance. They are, for sure, ones to watch as well.

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    "It's not known to be our best track but, at the same time, anything can happen."

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