Max Verstappen has played down talk of a rivalry between himself and Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez ahead of the 2023 Mexico City Grand Prix.
The Dutchman and the Mexican are the top two drivers in the Formula 1 driver standings but it is the former who has won the world championship at a canter this year.
Any chance of close competition between the pair this year soon faded given the dominance Verstappen has enjoyed combined with the patchy form of Perez. However, as F1 enter Perez‘s home race, and the vociferous atmosphere that is likely set to be directed towards the champ, their relationship is once again in the spotlight.
“That’s made up,” said Verstappen to the press in Mexico on a rivalry between the two. “Checo and I get on really well and I mean, for us, I don’t think there is any rivalry.
“Obviously as a driver on track you always want to be first but I think we have a lot of respect for each other and we appreciate each other’s performances.”
Max Verstappen discusses ‘rivalry’ with Sergio Perez
To pre-empt hostility, #RacePect has been plastered around the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in a bid to try and quell some of what could be directed to Verstappen, whilst he has been quick to play down any idea that there is a bad relationship between himself and his team-mate:
Verstappen and Perez have had their fraught moments such as the 2022 Sao Paulo GP, but all involved at Red Bull have been eager to extinguish that particular fire.
“I think it’s a good thing that it starts here now,” said Verstappen on the #RacePect initiative. “I think in general the behaviour of the crowd in some places can be a bit better.
“Of course, for example in Austin it was maybe a bit towards me but in general the behaviour of supporting your favourite driver is fine but then I think you also have to respect the competition.
“But this is not only in our sport. I think it’s a general problem in a lot of sports that needs to be looked at and needs to be improved.”