Red Bull has organised bodyguards to shadow Max Verstappen during the Mexican Grand Prix weekend amid security concerns in the country’s capital.
Claiming a record-equalling 15th win of the season, Verstappen was booed when he took to the top step of the podium in Austin before chants of “Checo” [nickname of Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez] could be heard around the Circuit of the Americas.
In response to the perceived hostility towards the three-time champion, Verstappen will be shadowed by two bodyguards in the Mexico City paddock.
Despite the extra measures taken by the team, Verstappen holds no concerns going into the race weekend.
“Last year, it was really, really busy to get from your hospitality to your garage. It just helps to make it all a bit smoother on-track, off-track, travelling from your hotel and stuff like that.
“[We will do it] whenever we think it’s just helping the general flow of the weekend.
“I feel very safe. [Wednesday] I had a whole marketing day, and it’s been honestly a great reception here like I always had. It’s good to be back.”
Promoters of the Mexican Grand Prix are leading a ‘Racepect’ campaign aimed at promoting tolerance and respect to all those involved in the race weekend in response to “a growing number of incidents that have ranged from spectators booing drivers to discriminatory comments”.
Home hero Perez has also joined calls for respect, asking Mexican fans to “support the whole Red Bull Racing Team, not just me.”
Picking up just two of Red Bull’s 17 grand prix victories in 2023, Perez will be hoping to put on a performance in front of the home fans as he is yet to shake pressure and questions concerning his future with the team.
Verstappen, who has spent the vast majority of the season unrivalled, denied claims of ‘made up’ tension between Perez and himself.
“Checo and I, we get on really well. For us, I don’t think there is any rivalry,” Verstappen contended.
“Of course as a driver on-track, you always like to be first or to be faster. I think we have a lot of respect for each other, and we appreciate each other’s performances. I think it’s a good thing that it maybe starts here now. It’s not only here.
“In general, I think the behaviour of the crowd in some places I think can be a bit better. For example in Austin maybe it was a bit [to do with me?] but in general, I think the behaviour of supporting your favourite driver is fine, but then I think you also have to respect the competition.
“But this is not only in our sport. It’s a general problem in a lot of sports that I think needs to be looked at, and needs to be improved.
“Luckily, I don’t spend a lot of time on social media because it’s quite a toxic place. People who don’t need to show their face or whatever, they can say whatever they want. And again, this is not only in our sport, it’s in a lot of different sports, the same problem, or in general.
“I think it needs to be much better regulated what can be said and done, and written to people in general.
“I stay neutral in everything – In winning, in losing, in these kind of scenarios, I think for me that definitely works the best.
“I’m there to win, I’m there to perform, and as long as I can look at myself that I did the best I could and I’m there standing with the trophy, then that’s it for me. That’s what’s most important for me at the end of the weekend.”