After successfully evading the Turn 1 carnage, Russell found himself running in eighth at the time Sunday’s race was red-flagged on the opening lap.

In extraordinary scenes at the restart, the entire field except for pole sitter Lewis Hamilton peeled into the pit lane at the end of the formation lap to switch onto slick tyres, with Hamilton’s Mercedes lining up on the grid by himself.

Due to Williams’ positioning at the end of the pit lane, Russell spotted an opportunity to take the lead of the race by jumping a number of queuing cars as the field emerged from the pits.

Russell had asked Williams whether he was able to skip to the front by using the slow lane, rather than joining at the rear of the queue in the fast lane, but by the time his team radioed back to respond “negative", it was too late.

The Briton subsequently led the pack out of the pits and found himself running in the net lead with Hamilton set to pit at the end of the first full lap of racing.

F1's rules state that drivers must leave the pits in the order they arrive at the exit, meaning Russell faced a slam-dunk penalty.

But having realised Russell’s error, Williams told their driver to allow a train of cars led by eventual race-winner Esteban Ocon back through.

Russell subsequently dropped to eighth behind Fernando Alonso’s Alpine. He went to score his first points for Williams in ninth, before being promoted to eighth following Sebastian Vettel’s disqualification.


After the race, Russell thanked the FIA for taking a “common sense” approach to the situation.

“Firstly, thanks to the FIA for showing a little bit of common sense because I guess they could have easily given me a drive-through or something which would have been a bit harsh,” he said.

“It’s such a unique situation, everybody queuing up in the pit lane. I saw an opportunity and I thought, let’s go for it. So I’m glad that we were allowed just to hand the position back and that just shows a bit of common sense really.”

F1 race director Michael Masi later revealed that it was Williams, rather than the FIA, who instructed Russell to give back the positions he gained in the pit lane.

“George realised his error and the team came across immediately and said ‘we’ve made a mistake, we’re going to drop back behind Fernando’,” Masi explained. “It was actually at the team’s initiation.”

“The fact that the Williams pit stop position is at pit exit at this particular event, that’s why they would have had to have dropped back behind. Effectively they should start in the order in which they arrive at the pit exit.”

Masi confirmed he would have referred the incidents to the stewards had Williams not acted.

“I would have referred that straightaway,” he said.