"That was very strange. I was thinking 'Am I seeing things?'," the confused Mercedes driver told a news conference after the Chinese Grand Prix.
"I looked up, I was coming across the line expecting to do another lap and all of a sudden I looked for a split second and I saw the flag, I lifted for a second and I saw there was no-one on the wall, so then I just kept going."
The error led to the 56-lap race being shortened by two laps in accordance with the sport's technical regulations with the running order as it stood on lap 54 declared official.
The rule stipulates that if for any reason the flag is waved before the leading car has completed the scheduled number of laps, the race will be deemed to have finished when the leader last crossed the line on the previous lap.
The adjustment had no impact on those scoring points but Caterham's Kamui Kobayashi was moved back a place to 18th after he passed back-of-the-grid Marussia rival Jules Bianchi on what should have been the last lap.
"It's a real shame that my move on him on the last lap now doesn't count due to the mistake with the chequered flag, something we had nothing to do with," said the Japanese.
Such places matter for small teams like Caterham, who have never scored a point and whose final position at the end of the season will be decided on placings and a possible countback as far as 17th and 18th.
"It had been good to see what a small victory like that does for the team as it lifted everyone at the end of a very tough first four races of 2014," said Kobayashi.
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- Motor Racing
- Kamui Kobayashi