Exiting the pitlane in Q1, ahead of the first flying laps of the session, Russell slowly rolled down the pit exit on the inside of the Senna Esses to create a gap to the cars in front.
Due to the narrow nature of the pit exit Russell impeded Alpine driver Gasly, who complained over the team radio over the Briton’s antics.
The FIA had actually included a provision for this weekend that allowed drivers to create a gap coming out of the pits, but only on the condition that they stuck to the left and allowed space for cars behind to pass.
But the FIA stewards felt Russell hadn’t done so and had thereby impeded the Frenchman, and slapped him with a two-place grid penalty.
“In order to avoid situations like the ones that occurred in Mexico, the Race Director’s Event Notes for this event contained a specific clause (item 14) stipulating that it was permitted to go slow in the pit exit to create a gap before crossing the SC2 line,” said the verdict.
“However, by doing so, a driver must stay as far to the left as possible to allow other drivers to pass on the right side.
“RUS was exiting the pits, preparing for an out lap. RUS went slow to create a gap for a clear lap, but did not manage to stay completely to the left.
Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images
George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14
“As a result, following car(s) were not able to overtake, as intended by the Race Director’s instructions. This clearly violates the wording and the spirit of item 14 of the Race Director’s Event Notes.”
The stewards also found that Ocon and Gasly, who were behind Russell, had actually done the same, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez the driver who was impeded.
Both Alpine drivers were therefore also handed a two-place penalty each for the same offence, which drops Ocon and Gasly to 14th and 15th respectively.
Russell’s penalty demotes him from sixth to eighth after a chaotic Q3 qualifying segment, in which most of the 10 contenders felt they had a chance to qualify on the front row.
At the start Russell was fourth in the pitlane as the onset of rain and heavy winds only afforded drivers one flying lap.
But because a too conservative out-lap, his tyres and those of team-mate Lewis Hamilton weren’t in the right window for his flyer.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took pole ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, while Aston Martin duo Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso kept the Mercedes pair off the second row.
McLaren’s Lando Norris and the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz are the two benefactors of Russell’s grip drop, moving up to sixth and seventh respectively.
With Ocon and Gasly docked two spots, it has promoted both Kevin Magnussen and Alex Albon up two places each into 12th and 13th respectively.