BRACKLEY, England (AP) — Lewis Hamilton downplayed speculation he considered quitting Formula One following last year’s controversial finale that cost the Mercedes driver a record eighth championship.
“I never ever said I was going to stop,” Hamilton said Friday at the launch of Mercedes’ car for the upcoming F1 season.
Hamilton said he “needed to take a step back” after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Red Bull driver Max Verstappen won his first world title following a controversial ruling.
“It was obviously a difficult time for me,” Hamilton said in his return to the public eye. ”I eventually got to a point where I decided I (am) going to be attacking again coming into another season.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said he was “never concerned” that Hamilton would stop racing.
“Within the team, we knew he needed to take the time to reflect on things and particularly to understand how he would return in the right frame of mind,” Wolff said.
“I think what he did was absolutely right to take himself out of the microcosm of Formula One and step aside and flake out socially,” he added. “And he has come back in a great mindset. He’s positive, he’s determined and he, yet again, adversity that was thrown at him will make him stronger. It’s attack mode.”
On Thursday, motorsport’s governing body announced that Michael Masi will be replaced as F1’s race director following the controversy in Abu Dhabi in December.
The FIA reached its decision after conducting a detailed analysis of the wild ending, where Verstappen passed Hamilton on the last lap.