Sergio Perez may be struggling for form in F1 but his popularity and status has never been higher.
That's according to Fox Sports Mexico's Diego Meija, who sat down with RacingNews365.com in the build-up to the Mexico City Grand Prix.
Asked if the growth in South and Central America had mirrored that of the United States, Meija replied: "Yes, certainly in Mexico. That's especially since Checo became a Red Bull driver.
"His popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. When he drove at Force India and Racing Point, he was a well-known sportsman. Now he is a real celebrity. He is on the same level as the most famous soccer players."
On the arrival of Netflix hit docuseries Drive to Survive, Meija added: "That gave a big boost to the popularity of F1 in Latin America and Mexico. In doing so, we got a driver on the best team just when the sport was attracting more here.
"Boom, Checo's popularity was suddenly mega. When you're here, that's when you notice it. You see billboards and ads featuring him everywhere, both locally and internationally.
"The biggest Mexican brands want to tie themselves to him. They see him as the perfect ambassador for Mexico. He really is a star in the country. It's similar to the fan base a soccer team has. They continue to support him regardless of his performance."
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Die hard Checo fans vs. renegades
Perez began the season with two wins in four races as well as the Azerbaijan Sprint victory, yet his championship challenged faded disappointingly, so how has that been received?
"There are die-hard Checo fans, who will never dismiss him no matter what. Those will first blame other factors for something before coming out at him.
"However, there will also be fans who have turned their backs on him, from the moment that after that promising beginning, things did not go as well. And then there is the group that is not even so much a fan of Checo as a fan of Formula 1 itself."
"But the more dedicated fans will always cheer a little louder and you're going to hear them this weekend.
"At the beginning of the season, he felt that the car suited him and that he could get the most out of it. He felt he could fight with Verstappen and maybe fight for the championship. But before the season he told me he wanted to be more consistent and unfortunately, it didn't work out."
Can Perez get back to his top level?
"If you really want to compete for the championship, you have to be consistent. Your lesser days cannot be lousy days. But the bad news for him is that his down days were really lousy. But he's the first to admit that he didn't achieve his own goal.
"It may have something to do with the fact that with the various developments the car has moved a bit further away from him, but in the end a driver has to be able to adapt to that. Checo has not been able to make that switch.
On why he didn't experience such issues at Racing Point, Meija explained: "From that time, I know that he wants the rear of the car to be as stable as possible to be really fast and to be able to handle the tyres well in the race and things like that.
"So he was always strong in that area, but at Red Bull that didn't quite work as he was used to. I thought he might have found something on that this year, but it still turns out to be a wall he keeps running into.
"The races in Asia before the race in the US were perhaps his worst races at Red Bull, but he managed to come back in Austin, where he drove a clean race with no mistakes. Hopefully, that is the foundation on which he can recover."