Five-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has apologised to residents of Stevenage, his boyhood home town, for suggesting he grew up in a slum.
The Briton, his country's most successful racing driver, was speaking on national television at Sunday's BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Talking about his rise to the top of motorsport, he said: "It was really a dream for us all, as a family, to do something different, to kind of, for us, to get out of the slums ... well that's what we would say, it was not the slums. But just come out from somewhere and do something."
The comment drew condemnation from offended civic authorities and a wide range of people on social media. Hamilton, who speaks often about his journey from an underprivileged background to the pinnacle of the sport, said in an Instagram post on Tuesday evening that he had made a mistake. The post was later deleted.
"I wanted to take a second to send a message back to people back in the UK but also Stevenage, where I grew up and somewhere I am incredibly proud of to come from and still love to this day," he said. "Please, if you have any feelings about a mistake that I made on stage, don't bother with it, throw it to the side -- it's negative energy you don't need to hold.
"I am super proud of where I am coming from and I hope that you know that and that I represent it in the best way I can.
"Nobody is perfect and I definitely make mistakes quite often, particularly when you are up in front of a crowd trying to find the right words to express the long journey you've had in life. I chose the wrong words.
"I didn't mean anything by it and those of you who know me, know that I always mean love."
Hamilton finished second in the awards, behind Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas