Canada GP: Verstappen - I had to swerve for a groundhog

MONTREAL, Canada -- Max Verstappen revealed a groundhog nearly cost him victory at the Canadian Grand Prix when it crossed the track in front of his car on lap 32 of the race.

Verstappen took his sixth win of the season and the 60th of his career in Montreal after taking the lead from Lando Norris under a safety car period on lap 25.

Soon after racing resumed, Verstappen had to swerve to avoid the groundhog and a collision that could have cost him the win.

"He was almost dead!" Verstappen said after the chequered flag. "I started to get to the last chicane and I thought it was debris initially.

"So 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."

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A large population of groundhogs live on Montreal's Ile Notre-Dame where the circuit is situated and collisions with them have been known to cause extensive damage to F1 cars, not to mention the death of the animals.

In 2007, Super Aguri driver Anthony Davidson had to pit for a new front wing after running over a groundhog, while extensive damage was caused to Romain Grosjean's Haas in 2018 after a similar incident during a practice session.

George Russell, who was in second place behind Verstappen when the Red Bull driver swerved to avoid the groundhog on Sunday, confirmed the animal made it to safety.

"He ran off?" Verstappen responded. "Good. Luckily, I mean, because if that hits your car...

"I really had to slow down for it because I was a bit off the dry line.

"Yeah, 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."