F1 title rivals Leclerc and Verstappen had run pretty much nose-to-tail throughout the opening laps of the race, which was shaping up to be an interesting strategic battle until Leclerc lost control of his Ferrari at the end of Lap 17.
Leclerc spun off at Turn 11 and slammed into the tyre barriers, marking the third time this season he has retired while leading a race.
The accident promoted Verstappen into first place, and the Dutchman cruised to his seventh win in 12 races to put him in a commanding position in the championship.
Leclerc had held a 46-point championship lead after the Australian Grand Prix but the Monegasque now finds himself a whopping 63 points behind Verstappen with 10 races remaining after the latest dramatic twist.
And the pain was clear in Leclerc’s voice as he screamed “nooo!” over team radio following his crash.
Russell passed Red Bull’s Sergio Perez following a late Virtual Safety Car restart to claim the final spot on the podium in third, marking Mercedes’ first double rostrum of the season.
Perez missed out on third by just 0.815s at the flag, while Carlos Sainz recovered from the back of the grid following an engine penalty to take a distant fifth for Ferrari.
Fernando Alonso was sixth ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon, who was the highest-placed Frenchman in eighth, despite picking up a five-second time penalty for causing an opening lap collision with Yuki Tsunoda.