But after his pit stop for intermediates on lap 55, Russell seemed to be distracted by the yellow flag for the lap Stroll Lance and joined the Aston Martin driver on the Mirabeau escape route.
This not only put Russell behind Ocon and teammate Lewis Hamiltonbut when he rejoined the racing line he was hit by Red Bull Sergio Perezwhich cost the Brit a five-second penalty for a dangerous replay.
“It’s really kicking as P3 was almost guaranteed,” said Russell when asked by Autosport about his race.
“There was a yellow flag, I pulled back and as soon as I touched the brake I closed the lock and followed Stroll down the escape route.
“It’s probably a lesson that when you’re not on it and you’re not focused, you make these mistakes.
“Probably if there wasn’t a yellow flag there, I’d just focus more. I wouldn’t leave and cost the team comfortable P3.”
After a run-in with Perez, Russell reported strange behavior from the rear Mercedes W14.
But once the car had calmed down and any damage seemed minimal, he suggested to the team to let him overtake Hamilton and protect his buffer from Leclerc, knowing that his five-second penalty would be added after the finish.
George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14
Photo: Zak Mauger / Motorsport images
“I definitely did some damage to the car. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to continue, but somehow it worked out as the laps progressed.
“I think the fingers were bent backwards. I felt really uncomfortable in the car, but we were the fastest on the track in that period. So I don’t really know what’s going on.
“I was stopped by Ocon and Lewis and Charles locked me up. I definitely wasn’t going to risk anything with Lewis in these conditions. But with that five second penalty, it could be a good buffer if Charles were to catch it.”
But as Leclerc failed to gain any ground, Russell followed Hamilton home in fifth, with a safe 10-second lead Ferrari driver.
“Ultimately it wasn’t needed and I told the team there was no obligation or pressure on my part and then as soon as I found out we were safe for Charles I just brought it home,” he added.
“But yeah, it’s bitterly disappointing when you do everything right for 98% of it, but that one little mistake costs everything.”