Lewis Hamilton has told UK magazine Autocar that he was close to quitting Formula One after being accused of misleading stewards at last year’s Australian Grand Prix.
McLaren’s David Ryan lost his job and the team received a suspended three-race ban when race stewards challenged evidence Ryan and Hamilton gave them after the Briton swapped places with Toyota’s Jarno Trulli under a safety car period.
Hamilton was strongly criticised over the incident and has revealed he came close to turning his back on the sport following the incident.
“I care about how people perceive me,” said Mr Hamilton.
“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?””
Mr Hamilton said it was the support of his family and friends that encouraged him to continue racing in F1.
“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,” said Mr Hamilton.
“But slowly I began to realise 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 said he believes that although the situation has made him stronger, he wants to avoid ever repeating the scenario.
“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,” he said.
“Integrity is very important to me.”
The Australian round of the 2010 Formula One championship kicks off in Melbourne from March 25 – 28th.
(with Autocar UK)