Felipe Massa claimed Ferrari's tactical error cost him a top five finish in Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Brazilian, who is leaving Ferrari at the end of the year, said he was amazed when the Italian team switched him to a new set of medium compound tyres for the final 17 laps, instead of fitting soft tyres.
"We made a mistake," he said. "I didn't expect to use the medium in the last stint.
"I didn't discuss it (with the team beforehand) because for me it was clear. We were going to go on the softs. It's better, at the beginning I was the best car on the soft tyre.
"I expected to see the soft tyres on the car and I saw the other. Without this problem I would have finished easy in the top five."
He finished eighth after being passed in that final stint by three drivers including his team-mate Fernando Alonso who escaped penalty for earlier running off the circuit to pass Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso.
He was not punished because he took the action to avoid an accident.
Vergne praised Alonso for his actions and said they prevented the possibility of a big crash.
"It was a racing incident and if he had not gone on the outside (of the track) like he did, we would have had a big crash," said the French driver.
"It was high speed, and what he did was right. Actually, I am really happy he did that otherwise we would have had an accident, so yes, definitely the stewards made the right decision."
Alonso said that taking off over the kerbs had triggered the automatic g-loading sensor on his car that tells drivers when an impact is hard enough to make a medical examination necessary.
"I still have all my teeth after the impact," he joked. "But my back is obviously in pain a little bit because it was a big hit."