Lewis Hamilton has admitted he was close to quitting Formula One after he was 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 scandal.
"I care about how people perceive me,” he said. “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?''"
Hamilton revealed that the support he received from family and friends 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,” he said.
"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 believes the situation has made him stronger, but wants to avoid a repeat scenario in the future in order to keep his integrity.
"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."