Max Verstappen reveals real reason behind bodyguard protection in Mexico

Michelle Foster
Red Bull's Max Verstappen talks to the press ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen talks to the press.

Max Verstappen says having bodyguards in Mexico has nothing to do with feeling unsafe, it’s about helping him navigate the “really, really busy” paddock at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.

Earlier this week F1-Insider revealed Verstappen would have extra protection in Mexico following ‘some threats against Verstappen on social media’.

This was confirmed by Helmut Marko with the Red Bull motorsport advisor telling the publication: “We have responsibility for him. That’s why we just want to play it safe.”

Max Verstappen: I feel very safe

As such the Dutchman will have two bodyguards throughout the race weekend, which is not the norm for him, although it’s not unheard of as Lewis Hamilton is sometimes accompanied by security.

Verstappen says it’s not about feeling unsafe in Mexico, it’s about making his way through the paddock as easily as possible.

Asked about the arrangement in the build-up to the race weekend, the 25-year-old replied: “I mean, why not?

“I have, of course, a bit more security here. But there are always a few countries around the world where it’s very busy, also here in the paddock.

“For example, last year, it was really, really busy to get from your hospitality to the garage. And it just helps also to make it a little bit smoother on track, off track, travel from your hotel, and stuff like that.

“[But] I feel very safe. I mean [on Wednesday] I had a whole marketing day, and it’s been honestly a great reception here like I always had. So yeah, it’s just been good to be back.”

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Max Verstappen weighs in on ‘made-up’ rivalry with Perez

While it has been suggested Verstappen could receive a less-than-friendly reception in Mexico given his rivalry with his teammate Sergio Perez, the Dutchman has quashed that.

Confirming what Perez had said earlier in the day, Verstappen denied that there’s any sort of unfriendly rivalry between the teammates as although they both want to beat the other, there is a “lot of respect”.

“Yeah, that’s made up,” he said of a rivalry with the Mexican driver. “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 try to be first or be faster, but I think we have a lot of respect for each other, and we appreciate each other’s performances.”

Backing up his and Perez’s words, the Mexican Grand Prix organisers launched a campaign called #racespect which urges fans to respect every one of the drivers.

Verstappen, who was booed last Sunday in Austin, says it’s a good initiative, but it’s not only needed in Mexico.

“I think it’s a good thing that it maybe starts here now, but it’s not only here,” Verstappen said. “I think in general, the behaviour 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 behaviour of supporting your favourite driver is fine. But then you also have to respect the competition.

“But this is not only in our sport. It is a general problem in a lot of sports that needs to be looked at and needs to be improved.”

Read next: Sergio Perez takes aim at media for false Max Verstappen rivalry