Lewis Hamilton told reporters in Japan that it was his fault that he had missed out on the chance to start a final flying lap at the end of qualifying in Suzuka.

After being overtaken by Mark Webber and Michael Schumacher on his warm-up lap, Hamilton arrived at the start line too late to commence his fast lap as the chequered flag was already out. As a result, he was sidelined while Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button both leapt ahead of him in the timings.

"It was my mistake," he told reporters after the qualifying session ended. "I should have got out sooner but I was making a wing change and I went out too late."

Hamilton had been backing off trying to give himself room to work with behind the next car up the track, his McLaren team mate Jenson Button, when suddenly he found Webber and Schumacher bearing down on him desperate to pass.

"Jenson was in front of me. He slowed down to get his gap and I was coming up to the last corner, trying to make sure that I had a gap between me and him. It wasn't that big.

"Just as I was coming into the chicane I looked in my mirror and I saw Mark diving up the inside of me," he continued. "Then I had Michael down the outside. It was very, very strange and that's really where we lost the lap.

"I was entering the last corner and Mark came out of nowhere and nearly crashed with me so I had to avoid him," Hamilton told the TV reporters in pit lane. "Michael was on the outside and went across the grass so that was an interesting moment. I couldn't get a lap after that," he added, describing it all as "a bit dangerous."

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh had earlier said that the team bore some responsibility for the missed opportunity. "With the benefit of hindsight, we perhaps didn't make it clear enough to Lewis about what he needed to achieve on his out-lap," Whitmarsh said afterwards. ""It was very tight and people were trying to make gaps. It was a difficult situation."

But Hamilton disagreed, and insisted that the pit wall had been keeping him completely in the loop throughout. "The team were telling me when I need to get a lap but it was not the team's decision, so it was my fault," he said.

"I didn't want to pass him at all," said Webber, for his part. "I didn't want to get involved in any of that ... But the team were saying 'Come on, get on with it, we're running out of time, you're not going to be able to start the lap, you've got to push through the last chicane,'" he said, adding that it was all "a bit of a mess."

Not surprisingly, it was the experienced Michael Schumacher who had been most aware of the clock counting down and who had been most frustrated by Hamilton backing up the cars in front of him, which ultimately cost Schumacher his own chance of a flying lap run as well.

"It was a bit stupid in the last chicane; everyone was driving a bit slow and I knew I had to go through somehow," Schumacher told the post-race media scrum. "I had Webber in front who slowed down because Hamilton slowed down and it was tight for all three of us. I tried my best and Lewis pushed me a little bit onto the grass."

With the post-qualifying decision to promote Kamui Kobayashi to seventh place because of having completed a faster warm-up lap earlier in Q3, the incident ended up losing Schumacher a grid position for Sunday. But Schumacher declined to assign any blame for the near-miss, however, referring instead to the "tricky ending to my qualifying session."

Later at the post-qualifying press conference, Hamilton himself declined when asked to elaborate further on what had happened: "I prefer not to, really," he asked. "I think you could see it on the TV. I would have to watch the replay."

Asked again minutes later to go into details by a reporter who had arrived midway through the press conference, Hamilton was even terser: "I just explained to ..." he began, before breaking off. "You can see it, I don't see the reason to explain it again."

"He arrived late," explained Button helpfully, after which it was a topic that everyone was careful to steer clear of for the rest of the media appearance.