Max Verstappen has revealed he had a near-miss with a groundhog during his drive to victory at the F1 Canadian Grand Prix.

Montreal’s famous rodents who live on the island housing the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve can prove problematic when F1 rolls into town. Indeed, several groundhogs have had run-ins with the cars down the years.

Former Haas driver Romain Grosjean hit a groundhog in 2018, while ex-Williams racer Nicholas Latifi accidentally ran one over in 2022.

Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton narrowly avoided a woodchucker during FP2 on Friday, and reigning world champion Verstappen said he too had a close shave on lap 32 of Sunday’s grand prix.

“He was almost dead,” Verstappen said in the post-race press conference. “I started to get to the last chicane and I thought it was debris initially.

“I started to close in and then I’m like, oh my god, it’s an animal. So yeah, I swerved right at the last moment. I don’t know what happened after.”

Mercedes’ George Russell, who finished third, interjected to say: “I saw it. He ran off.”

Verstappen replied: “He ran off. Good. Luckily, I mean, if that hits your car…”

3rd place George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15 with 1st place Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing. Formula 1 World

3rd place George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15 with 1st place Max…

To which, Russell joked: “I was quite happy because I caught you up a couple of tenths.”

It was not the first run-in with wildlife Verstappen has had in Montreal.

During last year’s Canadian Grand Prix, he struck a bird which got stuck in the brake duct of his Red Bull.

“I really had to slow down for it because I was a bit off the dry line,” Verstappen added.

“Last year, of course, a bird flew into my car. So I didn’t want to have a groundhog stuck in my car as well.”

Verstappen claimed a hard-fought sixth win of the season in Sunday’s wet and wild race. 

“It’s very rewarding,” Verstappen said. “I mean, it’s never an easy race. It’s easy to make mistakes, especially on the inters when they were almost becoming slicks.

“You know, it was very easy to go off because the track was drying in most places, but in some corners it was still a bit too wet to go to slick tyres. And yeah, that made it just very, very difficult.

“But it’s a lot of fun to drive these kind of races now and then. You don’t want it all the time because that’s too stressful, but I had a lot of fun out there today.”