Mexican fans flock to Texas to cheer on Perez

Sat Nov 17, 2012 5:46pm EST
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By Corrie MacLaggan

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - At the first U.S. Grand Prix in five years, there are no American drivers, but Mexico's Sergio Perez is something of a local hero.

The 22-year-old Guadalajara native known as "Checo" has drawn fans to Texas from neighboring Mexico, where there is a passion for Formula One but there has not been a Grand Prix since 1992.

During practice sessions at Austin's Circuit of the Americas on Friday and Saturday, Mexican flags waved from the stands as spectators cheered on the country's most promising driver in more than 40 years.

"I think all of Mexico is proud of Checo Perez," said Liliana Pulido, a fan from Mexico City, who wore a hat with the name of Perez's team, Sauber, and a shirt that said "Sergio" in giant letters.

She said she waited four hours at the U.S.-Mexico border crossing and that everyone in line seemed to be coming to see Perez in Austin, a closer destination than the other cities on the F1 calendar.

Many Perez fans already live in Texas, where nearly one-third of the population is of Mexican origin, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.

"I feel at home because it's so close to Mexico," Perez said of Austin, which is about a 16-hour drive from Mexico City.

He said his friends and family members, including his grandmother, will be in Austin, and that for many of them, it will be their first time to see him race live. Mexican President Felipe Calderon also is expected to attend Sunday's race.   Continued...

Fans of Sauber Formula One driver Sergio Perez of Mexico watch the third practice session of the U.S. F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas November 17, 2012. REUTERS/Adrees Latif