Lewis Hamilton has revealed that he was on the brink of walking away from Formula 1 after he was adjudged to have misled the stewards at last year's Australian Grand Prix.
The furor over the evidence Hamilton and McLaren team manager Dave Ryan gave the officials as they investigated Jarno Trulli and Hamilton's change of position during a safety car period led to Ryan parting company with the team and McLaren receiving a suspended three-race ban. Hamilton was heavily criticized over the scandal, and said rather than pondering leaving McLaren over the incident, he considered quitting F1 altogether.
"There was a lot to take on board after what had gone on," he told the British newspaper media at a preview of next week's season-opening grand prix in Bahrain. "I care about how people perceive me. It was a feeling of, 'Shoot, maybe I shouldn't be in the sport,' rather than not in my team.
"This is my dream team and I am fortunate to have been here from the beginning [of my career]. I never had a desire to drive for anyone else. So, it was not a desire to leave the team, just to stop racing. For a split second it was, 'This is too much to take. How do I recover from this?'"
The Briton credited the support he received in the wake of the affair for convincing him to continue racing.
"There was support from my family, team, fans, amazing letters and I thought, 'You know what, I made a mistake but I am being given a second chance by all these people and support,'" said Hamilton. "I never for a second didn't want to do it, I love racing. Sometimes it is hard to face the music; hard to face people when you know that as soon as you turn your back they are talking about you.
"For a long period of time, for months, I would walk into a room and I am sure there are some people who walked into the room and they feel cool but for me I just didn't feel positive, it was negative energy and I don't like that. But slowly I began to realize that it was not all negative energy and I had a lot of support and respect from people. It made me stronger. It was a real strong experience."
Hamilton added that he was determined to avoid similar situations in the future. "I don't want to be in that position again," he said. "It's like when you put your hand out to a certain dog and it bites you, you won't do the same again. It's similar. I have been bitten once and you don't want to get bit again. I don't ever want to be in that position again and I don't feel I ever will be.
"I can't say what will happen in the future but I have always said I love the sport, I love winning and winning in the right way. Integrity is very important to me."