Williams driver Nicholas Latifi has apologised and said it was not his intention to play such a major role in deciding the outcome of the F1 championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.
Latifi’s crash on lap 52 of 58 was the spark for the safety car which changed the whole race, controversially setting up Max Verstappen’s last lap pass on rival Lewis Hamilton for the win and championship.
Verstappen’s boss Christian Horner joked to Sky Sports after the race he would make sure he got the Canadian driver a lifetime supply of Red Bull.
Latifi said he had no idea how finely poised the title fight was out in front and put the crash down to driver error.
“It was never my intention and I can only apologise for influencing and creating an opportunity,” Latifi said. “I made a mistake.”
He added: “We were just really struggling for grip through the next sequence of corners, and especially where I ended up going off.
“It’s been a tricky corner all weekend for me, so dirty tyres, dirty air and I made a mistake.
“I wasn’t aware of the situation of the race up until then. Obviously it was never my intention to inadvertently influence that, but I made a mistake and ruined my own race.”
The controversy from the situation came from the decisions made after the safety car had been deployed. The FIA initially said lapped cars could not unlap themselves by passing the safety car, only to reverse that decision shortly afterwards.
Mercedes were angry and appealed the result after the race, but its protest was dismissed.