MONTE CARLO, Monaco, May 29, 2011 (AFP) - Aggrieved McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton claimed he was being victimised after being called to face the race stewards at the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday - but had to clarify his comments after suggesting the issue was connected to colour.
The 26-year-old Briton, who finished sixth in a chaotic contest riddled with accidents and stoppages, said the way he had been treated this season was a joke - but he was at pains to clarify his remarks after bringing up the race issue.
Defending drivers' champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull won Sunday's classic 78-lap race round the Mediterranean harbour for the first time to open up a massive lead in the championship.
Hamilton expressed his annoyance after being punished during the race for one alleged misdemeanour and then summoned to appear before the stewards for a second.
"It's an absolute frickin' joke," he told the BBC. "I've been to see the stewards five times in six races this season."
Asked why that was the case, Hamilton said: "Maybe it's because I'm black! That's what (British comic character) Ali G says."
During the early part of the race, Hamilton was given a 'drive-through' penalty for a brush with Brazilian Felipe Massa of Ferrari.
He was then called in again by the stewards after a late clash with Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado of Williams, as he passed him in the closing stages for which he received a 20sec penalty which did not affect his final placing. Hamilton said he felt he had done nothing wrong in both cases.
"Massa held me up in qualifying," he said. "I got the penalty. He turned in to me (during the race). I got the penalty. These drivers are ridiculous. It's stupid."
Hamilton later struck a more mellow tone."I've just been to the stewards to make peace. What I said was a bit of a joke, which wasn't funny at the time.
"I made them aware that when emotions are high, and it's very intense at the end of those kind of races, you don't always say the right thing, and the joke didn't come at the most appropriate time.
"So I went there, made that clear to them, we've made our peace. "They accepted my explanation, they understood.
"We all shook hands afterwards."
By way of further explanation, Hamilton added: "I'm passionate. I drove my heart out. The weekend was tough. It started out perfectly, and I finished the race, but only just.
Hamilton could have faced a charge of bringing the sport into disrepute.
Asked if he wished he had not made any racial references, Hamilton reflected: "Like I said I was trying to be funny, but it wasn't funny. You're not always right when you're trying to be funny.
"Sometimes you really put your foot in it and you offend people, and I did not really set out to offend anyone."
"People want to see racing," he said earlier. "But you get done trying to put on a show, trying to make a move.
"Fair play, if I feel I've gone too late, I'd hold my hand up to admit I've caused an incident. But that's not the case. I'll just try and keep my mouth shut and try to enjoy the rest of the season."
After Sunday's race, according to the provisional result, Germany's Vettel led the championship with 143 points from six races, with Hamilton second on 85.
Vettel's Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber of Australia is third on 79 points.
Hamilton, who in 2008 became the first black world champion in the sport's history, added: "It's not too late (to win the world championship) but it's not looking great. I gave my all today and the team did a great job.