‘He was almost dead’ – Max Verstappen explains Lap 32 swerve that made George Russell ‘happy’

Michelle Foster
A groundhog on the track in Montreal

Max Verstappen had to swerve to avoid a groundhog

From kerbs to closing rivals, Max Verstappen had several issues to deal with on his way to the Canadian Grand Prix win including a groundhog that he had to swerve to avoid.

Starting second in the rain at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve behind the Mercedes of George Russell having set the exact same lap time in qualifying, it was a race result partially decided by rivals’ mistakes.

Max Verstappen’s swerve, George Russell’s happiness…

From trips up escape roads to moments on the kerbs, the tricky changeable weather conditions weren’t helped by visiting locals – groundhogs.

While some were spotted earlier in the weekend, one decided to get up close and personal with the action during the Grand Prix and walked onto the track.

Verstappen had to swerve around the furry critter, who he would’ve hit had he not taken avoiding action.

“He was almost dead!” he told the media after his victory in Montreal.

“Yeah, 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.”

Turning to Russell, who finished third to bag his and Mercedes’ first Grand Prix podium of the campaign, Verstappen asked: “Did any of you touch him or he ran off?”

Russell confirmed not only had the groundhog “ran off”, but that he was “quite happy because I caught you up by a couple of tenths.”

Verstappen explained: “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. I call it a beaver, but it’s a groundhog. I didn’t know what it was exactly.”

Russell replied: “If you hit a beaver, you’ll have problems.”

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Wildlife, though, wasn’t Verstappen’s only concern in Montreal where he revealed Red Bull’s advantage over the chasing pack was once again limited by kerb riding.

“We know that this is a weakness and I also know that we are flat out working on it to try and fix it,” he said. “I really feel like it’s quite a big performance limitation for us at the moment.

“Of course, naturally, I’m also looking forward to some tracks where we don’t really need to take too many kerbs or too many bumps.

“You can see already, every weekend so far, it’s been…some teams are a bit stronger at particular tracks, and I guess that in a way, of course, makes it very exciting.”

He has backed Red Bull to bounce back, warning rivals there’s scope to improve the RB20 by a “big margin” once they get on top of that problem.

“The last few races have been quite difficult, but not only just difficult, too many problems as well, throughout the whole weekend. So we need to have a cleaner weekend,” he said.

“Even in the race now, we’re struggling a lot with the kerbing and the bumps. So we definitely have an area we can work on and definitely improve the car by quite a big margin if we get that under control.”

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