Williams driver Nicholas Latifi sounded audibly distressed after running down a groundhog during practice ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix.
The race in Montreal has always been known for the presence of groundhogs, or marmots, who will frequently risk it all by venturing out onto the racetrack in front of passing cars, forcing drivers to take avoiding action.
Most of the time, fortunately, the drivers are able to take avoiding action but, during the third and final practice session, Latifi was not so fortunate.
Braking times are naturally slower in wet conditions, and the track was soaked on Saturday morning as the drivers ventured out in the rain, and one ground hog ran out in front of the Canadian’s car at just the wrong time.
As he approached the braking zone of Turn Three, his Williams connected with one of the furry residents that was sprinting across the track, and there was nothing he could do to avoid hitting it as it tried to get to the other side.
“Oh no, I just hit a groundhog,” said a saddened Latifi over the radio.
“Should I box? I don’t know about the front wing… I couldn’t avoid it, it was in the braking zone.”
The 27-year-old went on to qualify 18th ahead of Charles Leclerc and Yuki Tsunoda, who both had engine penalties, and he made his way up to 16th, finishing ahead only of Kevin Magnussen in the list of classified runners.
Team-mate Alex Albon would take 14th having qualified 12th, beating the hapless McLaren of Lando Norris.
Despite the result, Latifi was pleased to finally be able to race in front of his home crowd having been deprived of a home race for the last two years owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Obviously, the overall experience from the weekend has been really, really special,” he said in the media pen after the race.
“It’s great to finally have that first home race and the support I felt [from] family, friends and all the fans in the grandstands has been amazing.”
Speculation has continued to mount over Latifi’s future in recent days, with Otmar Szafnauer confirming that Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri will be in the pinnacle of motorsport in 2022.
It is thought that the young Australian is set to take Latifi’s place at Williams following a tough start to the year for the Montreal-born racer.