For the stewards, it was one of their easier decisions as Mercedes driver Russell was on the racing line as Leclerc was poised to complete a flying lap towards the end of the initial shootout session.
Russell, who has so far struggled with the upgraded W14 at the Circuit of the Americas, in contrast to team-mate Lewis Hamilton, had qualified eighth, but the penalty means he falls to 11th.
Check out the updated grid for the United States Grand Prix Sprint.
A stewards' report read: “Car 63 (Russell) entered the last two corners preparing for his flying lap at the end of SQ1 with car 16 (Leclerc) closing in quickly.
“Whilst the team did inform the driver about the closing car a few seconds in advance, there was no further information directly before car 63 entered Turn 19 with car 16 right behind.
“Car 63 did not move from the racing line in or after Turn 19 and therefore unnecessarily impeded car 16.
“The stewards note that irrespective of any information coming from the team, it is the driver's responsibility to ensure that no other cars are unnecessarily impeded.”