George Russell accepted that the two penalties he was awarded during Sprint Saturday at the United States Grand Prix were “fair”.

Russell had qualified eighth in the Sprint Shootout, but he was demoted three places on the grid after the stewards alleged that he had impeded Charles Leclerc during SQ2.

The Briton immediately recovered the lost ground by gaining a trio of positions on the first lap, eventually gaining one more place on Oscar Piastri to come home seventh.

However, Russell was handed a five-second time penalty mid-race for overtaking Piastri off the track at Turn 15 when he swept around the outside of the McLaren driver.

Despite initially complaining, Russell acknowledged that it was the correct decision both times, with the second penalty dropping him behind Pierre Gasly to eighth.

“Definitely a scrappy day,” he reflected. “In the stewards [room] twice, both were fair penalties, neither were intentional [on my side].”

Russell concedes his pass on Piastri was “optimistic”, adding “He had his right to push me off and I went for it, just thinking if he was being kind I would have got the position.”

Having cleared the struggling McLaren, Russell instantly latched onto the back of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who was the only driver on the grid running the Soft tyre.

Russell attempted a late dive up the inside into Turn 1 on Lap 14, but Sainz rebuffed the attack on the run to the Turn 2 kink and remained ahead until the chequered flag.

With the time stuck behind the Ferrari costing Russell a position to Gasly, Russell rued not being able to clear Sainz to make up the time needed to counteract his penalty.

“It was a shame I couldn’t get past Carlos, he was just too quick in the corners that matter compared to us,” Russell explained.

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. 21.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, USA, Sprint Day.

While Russell could only salvage a solitary point, team-mate Lewis Hamilton converted third on the grid to finish a comfortable second behind race winner Max Verstappen.

Russell’s Sprint preparations were already hampered by having to run a used set of Soft compound in the Shootout after burning through his tyres in Friday’s qualifying.

The ex-Williams racer, who will line up a more encouraging fifth on Sunday, is perplexed by the troubles he has experienced in qualifying at the Circuit of the Americas.

“We knew in qualifying if we did everything right, P6 was probably the maximum,” he acknowledged. “It’s just been a bit of a strange weekend I was really off the pace in Q1 and Q2 and then Q3 things came back to me.

“It’s swings and roundabouts. Qualifying is definitely one of my strengths recently, something to review why it hasn’t been so good this weekend.

“But it’s one weekend, you can’t get it right every time.”

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