Oct.27 (GMM) Max Verstappen entered the Mexico GP paddock on Thursday flanked by two large bodyguards.
That is despite the fact that, following a backlash from the drivers a year ago, the organisers have severely limited the number of people with paddock passes for 2023.
“For me, it’s easier now and I like it,” said Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
Outside the paddock is a different matter, with Fernando Alonso swamped by 4000 fans at a Hugo Boss sponsor event in a shopping centre on Wednesday – and at one point a fan jumped onto the stage and onto the Spaniard’s back.
But for Verstappen it’s a different situation again, with race organisers even putting up billboards around Mexico City to remind the public that they must respect local hero Sergio Perez’s teammate.
“I think it’s important that we give this message, because I think the media likes to create this sort of rivalry outside the track,” said Perez.
“Let’s show that we are the most educated fans in the world. We need to live up to who we are and show how great we are as a country and culture.”
Dutchman Verstappen was mercilessly booed by the American crowd in Austin a week ago, and the personal bodyguards now are the team’s initiative to keep him safe.
When asked about his extra security, the world champion insisted: “I feel safe here and I have received a great welcome – as always actually.
“In general, the behaviour of the fans could be better in some places, but this way it’s just a bit easier for me to move around.”
Verstappen, however, reports that he hasn’t had any problems in Mexico so far.
“I got here on Tuesday and I haven’t had any trouble and I don’t expect any.”
He thinks part of the problem is that Formula 1 has simply surged in popularity in some markets in a very short amount of time.
“Formula 1 has gained a lot of new fans in the last few years, and not all of them react the same way. Of course there is nothing wrong with supporting your driver, but I don’t think it’s ok to whistle and shout when an athlete is honoured by his country’s anthem.
“So it’s good that the organisers are raising awareness.”
Verstappen was also asked about the new controversy surrounding Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc’s disqualifications in Austin, believing the FIA should do more to ensure the cars are legal.
“The only thing that needs to be changed is to also check the team’s second car if it turns out that the first one does not comply with the regulations,” he said.