Russell passed Alpine racer Esteban Ocon on the final lap to grab fourth place at the line, but he was ultimately demoted to eighth owing to a five-second penalty for a tangle with race winner Verstappen.
At half distance, Verstappen dived down the inside into Turn 12 but the pair came to blows.
Without the reprimand – which he did not object to, saying he was caught unawares by Verstappen – and damage from the bash, third-starting Russell reckons a podium finish was on the cards.
Russell said: “It was pretty straight forward until the incident with Max. Just totally didn’t see him in the blind spot. Wasn’t expecting the overtake.
“I wasn’t even really fighting him because we knew that Max wasn’t our race. We just had to keep the tyres alive.
“It was a comfortable podium just thrown away once again. So, this season is really disappointing. Very frustrating.”
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19
Verstappen appeared to come off worse from the contact as the right-hand front wing endplate of his RB19 broke off, while Russell shed a wheel cover. The debris resulted in a safety car period.
But this, Russell reckoned, might have been to his benefit by helping to control tyre temperatures.
He continued: “The only piece of damage was the wheel cover, which if anything, probably would have helped the graining by having that extra bit of cooling.
“So, if it wasn’t for the safety car, we would have continued and would have gone onto the podium. I don’t really know what to say really. Just really frustrated with today.”
While the cool night-time temperatures did not wreak havoc with the Pirellis as expected, Russell reckoned the tyres still turned to “rock” behind the safety car.
He continued: “It was really dangerous under the safety car. The tyres were rock solid and they were sort of colder than you’d experience in the rain really.”
Asked whether the race start time should be brought forward for future races to avoid similar issues, Russell continued: “It makes entertainment, so it depends what we’re chasing.”