Six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton apologised to Alexander Albon over a collision that cost the Red Bull rookie a first Formula One podium.
The Mercedes driver, who clinched his latest title in Texas two weeks ago and had nothing at stake in the race at Interlagos, was handed a five second penalty for the penultimate lap incident.
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"I fully accept the responsibility. I fully accept I was coming from behind so I'm the one that touched him, not the other way round," said the 34-year-old Briton.
"I massively apologise to Albon. I went for a move... the gap was kind of there, but obviously it closed right at the end and completely my fault.
"It's probably the first time I've come together with someone for a long, long time... I went straight to him after the race to apologise."
Fans were gutted for 23-year-old Thai driver Albon after the incident, taking to social media to express their disappointment.
Lewis Hamilton takes full responsibility for his crash with Alex Albon. pic.twitter.com/s1giKxSEHP— ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) November 17, 2019
Lewis Hamilton has been handed a five-second time penalty - Carlos Sainz is promoted to third place, his first podium finish in #F1— Nate Saunders (@natesaundersF1) November 17, 2019
Lewis robbed Albon his first podium finish 😤— 𝐌𝐫. 𝐒𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐤 🦈 (@mrdavison1) November 17, 2019
Hamilton really screwed Albon there. Get him off the podium— Duncan (@TheRealDvdB) November 17, 2019
Feel bad for @alex_albon . This lad deserved a podium. What a shame he couldn't.— Kiran Kumar Ageteela (@ageteelakiran) November 17, 2019
Indeed, he drove such a great race. I really feel for him— Duncan (@TheRealDvdB) November 17, 2019
crying for Albon rn but I’m so happy Max won 😭— Brit (@bruhtney) November 17, 2019
God damn, what a race. Feel so bad for Alex Albon. #BrazilianGP— Don Colvin (@doncolvin) November 17, 2019
Hamilton was demoted to seventh, his 32nd consecutive finish in the points and one short of his own record, while Albon ended up 14th.
"His time will come," said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.
Albon said Hamilton, on fresher tyres, would probably have got past anyway further down the road but third would have been his.
The Thai driver's response to the incident showed commendable maturity and class.
"It wasn't meant to be, next race," Albon said.
The race was won by Red Bull's Max Verstappen, the 22-year-old Dutch driver's third victory of the season and first from pole, with French 23-year-old Pierre Gasly the runner-up for Toro Rosso.
Albon, also 23, had been second when the collision occurred.
"I think it was a great race and it's great again to see the youngsters coming and driving so well," said Hamilton. "I'm battling as hard as I can to stay in the mix."
Late drama overshadows race finish
Verstappen led from start to finish to claim the eighth victory of his career, his third of the season but first from pole.
It also made amends for last year's race in Sao Paulo where he was heading for victory before a coming together with French backmarker Esteban Ocon dropped him to second.
"Redemption Max, absolute redemption from last year," Red Bull principal Christian Horner told the 22-year-old over the team radio.
"The way we fought for it was even better," Verstappen replied.
Victory lifted the Dutchman to third overall in the drivers' championship.
In a race of safety cars and surprises at Interlagos on Sunday, Gasly crossed in second place for Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso in a rare Honda-powered one-two.
Hamilton's demotion lifted Carlos Sainz to the podium, Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi upgraded to fourth and fifth respectively, and Australia's Daniel Ricciardo up to sixth.
Ricciardo himself recovered from an early five-second penalty which saw him drop back to last position, and then storm through the field in his Renault to finish in the points.
The 30-year-old was involved in a lap eight collision with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, who spun off the track and was heard on team radio angrily labelling the West Australian a "f***ing idiot".