Max Verstappen suspected he hit a bird early in the Canadian Grand Prix. Not only was he correct, it was wedged in his car for the remainder of the race.
The Red Bull driver radioed in early in the race to report that he believed he hit a bird as he was building a lead from Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, and upon inspection after the race, this proved to be true – with one unlucky Red Bull mechanic forced to pull the remains of the unfortunate creature from around his front right brake duct after the RB19 returned to the garage.
From Verstappen’s point of view, the accident did not cause too much damage to his car and he was able to take a comfortable win in the end, even with the bird lodged in his car for much of the race.
“It was still stuck on my car when I came in, it didn’t look great!” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1 afterwards. “I also feel sorry for the mechanic having to remove it.”
The World Championship leader extended his advantage at the top to 69 points after his fourth consecutive win, the 41st of his career, matching the late, great Ayrton Senna in doing so.
While his margin of victory was nowhere near as large as he has become accustomed to so far in 2023, the Red Bull driver’s progress seemed relatively serene for much of the race – bird striking aside – as team principal Christian Horner admitted.
“I think the biggest moment he had was hitting that bird, which just did half the race behind the front right brake duct,” he acknowledged.
Given Verstappen’s win came by ‘only’ nine seconds at the chequered flag, the Dutchman was asked how much of that can be attributed to upgrades from the likes of Aston Martin and Mercedes or an off-day from Red Bull, despite making it eight wins from eight this season.
And for Verstappen, it was a bit of both.
“Well, from our side, like I said, I don’t think it was our best day, because of the tyre temps and stuff,” he said.
“So that doesn’t help. But I also know that with their updates, they naturally of course improved. So, for sure, they got closer to us.”