Sergio Perez says he and Max Verstappen are only rivals on track and not off it amid increased security for Red Bull at the Mexico City Grand Prix.
Verstappen and Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko have been singled out in some local media outlets as problems for Perez, with Marko having made questionable comments about the Mexican’s nationality in the past. However, Perez says that the only time that he and Verstappen are rivals is during a race and wants his fans to understand there are no external issues between the pair.
“No, not at all, and I think it’s important that we give this message because I think the media likes to create this sort of rivalry outside of the track,” Perez said. “I think we are a great sport, we are a great example for a lot of young generations and we should just be focused on the sports side.
“Whatever happens on track should always stay there and that’s the best message we as a country want to give to the rest of the world. There is nothing else going on. The most important is that everything stays on track.
“I think, obviously, we are all rivals, but at the same time we are all sports athletes and we all want to do the best for ourselves. Max and myself are in the same team, so we both want to win and we are always giving our best, so I don’t think there should be any rivalry.
“For example, if I am in a race with Fernando (Alonso), he is not my rival outside of the track — we are just fighting on track — but the media like to create this rivalry outside of the track which I don’t think is great, and it’s important for the fans to understand that.”
Verstappen has extra security with him in Mexico City but says he does not feel unsafe or unwelcome by the local fanbase.
“I have a bit more security here, but there are always a few countries around the world where it’s very busy,” Verstappen said. “Also here in the paddock, for example 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, traveling from your hotel and stuff like that.
“I feel very safe. Yesterday 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.”
The Dutchman echoed Perez’s comments regarding any rivalry between them, as a new campaign called #Racepect has been launched this weekend to discourage abuse.
“Yeah [the rivalry is], made up,” he said. “Checo and I, we get on really well. For us, I don’t think there is any rivalry. Of course as a driver on track, you always like to be first or you try to be faster, but 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 [the campaign] maybe starts here now. It’s not only here. In general, the behavior of the crowd in some places I think can be a bit better. For example in Austin, maybe it was a bit towards me, but in general, I think the behavior of supporting your favorite driver is fine, but then I think you also have to respect the competition.
“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.”