SHANGHAI, April 20, 2014 (AFP) - An embarrassing blunder forced the Chinese Grand Prix to be shortened by two laps on Sunday after a steward mistakenly showed the chequered flag early to race winner Lewis Hamilton.
Race sources told AFP the "experienced" steward was distraught after unfurling the flag and showing it momentarily to Hamilton, before realising he was a lap too early.
Under FIA rules, if the flag is shown early the race is deemed to have finished when the leading car last crossed the line, in this case after lap 54.
The mishap was not announced until after the race, meaning the last two laps of the 56 were effectively null and void and the finishing times and race distance had to be hastily revised.
The only race position to be changed affected Kamui Kobayashi, whose hapless season continued when his late pass on Jules Bianchi was cancelled and he was demoted to 18th place.
"That was very strange," Hamilton told reporters. "I was thinking 'am I seeing things?' I looked up as I was coming across the line, expecting to do another lap, and I saw a chequered flag.
"And I saw there was no one (from the team) on the wall so I kept going. I did lose like a second or so.
"I asked the team was there a flag and they said 'no' and I kept going. It was good to do another lap."