Oct.31 (GMM) Dr Helmut Marko admits he was overly cautious about triple world champion Max Verstappen’s personal safety and security situation ahead of the Mexican GP.
Following the tsunami of boos Verstappen was subjected to after the US GP a week earlier, Red Bull decided to hire two sizeable bodyguards to protect the 26-year-old Dutchman at all times at teammate Sergio Perez’s home race.
Ultimately, Verstappen had a peaceful Mexican GP.
“They were very fair,” team advisor Marko, 80, admits to the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.
“Max was not even booed even though it happened a week earlier in Austin,” he said.
Still, Verstappen was cautious throughout the weekend, with Marko confirming that Max “did not leave his hotel” when he was not at the circuit near Mexico City.
As for Marko, the Austrian said he personally behaved completely normally throughout and prior to the race weekend, even though he enraged many Mexicans and Perez fans by incorrectly referring to his “South American” heritage earlier in 2023.
“It didn’t really interest me,” Marko said of the way the furore affected his own behaviour in Mexico.
“I went into town and spent a few days alone elsewhere in Mexico earlier in the weekend. We really didn’t have any problems at all.
“People actually wanted to have their picture taken and said ‘Welcome to Mexico’. Due to the whole atmosphere earlier in the week, I had no idea if Max would have a tough time or not, but it turned out to not be the case.”
There were, however, some violent situations during the Mexican GP weekend, including a fatal police shooting after a car chase just outside the gates of the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit.
And a fight also broke out in the grandstands, with video evidence showing a spectator wearing a Perez t-shirt attacking Ferrari-clad fans in the wake of Perez’s terminal turn 1 crash with Charles Leclerc.
A circuit spokeswoman confirmed that the Perez fan was ejected from the track and banned for life.
“We dealt with the situation immediately and strongly condemn any form of violence, as it has no place on the track, in the stands or in motorsport,” she told Bild newspaper.
“We stand for mutual respect and will continue to work to create a safe environment for all participants and fans.”
Finally, Marko revealed that he placed a bet with Verstappen’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase just prior to the race, when the Red Bull driver lined up P3 on the grid behind the two Ferraris.
“I don’t bet with Max anymore,” he smiled. “But I bet his engineer that he (Max) would be first at the first corner. And I won.”