Max Verstappen on Thursday called for more respectful behaviour by Formula One’s new generation of fans as he prepared for the home Grand Prix of Red Bull team-mate Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez.
Verstappen was booed and fans chanted ‘Checo!’ at the last race in Texas.
While Verstappen has soared to a third straight title, his team-mate has been left behind. The Mexican driver’s future with Red Bull appears under threat following a run of lacklustre form as he prepares to race before his home fans.
Red Bull said on Thursday that Verstappen, team boss Christian Horner and motorsport advisor Helmut Marko would be given bodyguards after concerns about their safety.
Perez is expected to also have a security guard among his entourage.
But Verstappen said he had received a warm welcome since arriving in Mexico and he wanted it to stay that way.
“I hope it does not only here, but in general in sport, not just our sport,” he said. “We have gained a lot of new fans in the last few years and maybe they don’t respond and react the same way, but a bit differently.”
The sport has gained exposure in North America with a Netflix series ‘Drive To Survive’, which has exposed tensions between the two Red Bull drivers.
“I think it’s good to show support for your favourite driver but you should always show respect for the others and especially on the podium and during the anthems because then it is very disrespectful in those moments.
“In general, I think we need to raise awareness not just here but in other sport too.”
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the 26-year-old Dutchman said he had arrived on Tuesday afternoon and had a full day’s appearance work on Wednesday.
“It’s been great,” he said. “I am here to do my job and the welcome has been amazing as always.”
Last Sunday, sections of the big crowd at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin booed and jeered while when Verstappen was introduced on the podium and during the Dutch anthem, when the chants of ‘Checo, Checo’ resonated.
Perez also appealed to his Mexican fans to set an example with good behaviour and played down his perceived rivalry with Verstappen.
“It is very important we give this message, the right message,” he said. “I know the media likes to create rivalry, but we are here in a great sport and we must show an example to younger generations.
“What happens on the track should stay on the track so that we can show an example here to the rest of the world.”
Posters encouraging race fans to be respectful line many of the streets close to the circuit declaring ‘Racespect’, a message Perez said he supported.
Local organisers also said they were strictly controlling the number of guests in the paddock during the weekend following alarming reports last year when drivers and team members were mobbed and jostled.