Lewis Hamilton has revealed that he still struggles to comprehend exactly what unfolded during the closing stages of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The seven-time World Champion missed out on an eighth world title as a late Safety Car intervention and FIA Race Director decision saw title glory swing away from Hamilton and towards Red Bull's Max Verstappen.
With the title decided in a last-minute, gut-wrenching fashion, Hamilton gave a cursory TV interview before the podium ceremony but then promptly withdrew from the public eye for almost two months.
Re-emerging on social media recently, Hamilton was present at the launch of Mercedes' new W13 on Friday, where he gave his first interviews since the controversial race at the Yas Marina circuit.
"I just unplugged; I switched off," Hamilton told media, including RacingNews365.com, when asked about his mental thought process since Abu Dhabi.
"I think I deserve to be able to switch off at the end of the year anyway, but I had my family around me, my whole family around me – it was actually a rare occasion where we're absolutely all together and [I] just focused on being present with them.
"Obviously, [it] took time to digest what had happened which, I think, [it is] still difficult to fully understand everything. But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
"I put my focus into just training, getting healthy, and enjoying the time off, because it goes quickly."
Hamilton refuses to let Abu Dhabi disappointment "define my career"
With the events of the Abu Dhabi race resulting in huge public outcry and an unprecedented investigation from the FIA, the governing body's president Mohammed Ben Sulayem earlier this week confirmed a change to the Race Control structure for 2022.
While Hamilton maintained silence throughout the winter, he revealed that he never had any intention of retiring from F1 in the aftermath of the race, but went through his usual mental process of deciding whether he wanted to continue.
"I've considered retiring so many times!" he joked.
"Honestly, I haven't. Of course, at the end of seasons, you think [about it], and the question is whether you're willing to commit the time, the effort that it takes to be a World Champion.
"I think a lot of people underestimate what it takes to be a World Champion. There are so many moving parts; it's not just turning up and driving the car.
"The question is, do you want to sacrifice the time? Do you believe that you can continue to punch at the weight that you're punching? That's a normal mental process for me but, of course, this one was compounded by a significant factor."
But Hamilton explained that his resilient nature meant that he was certain he wanted to come back and ensure that Abu Dhabi would not define his illustrious career.
"Ultimately, I love a sport that I've loved my whole life," he said.
"There was a moment where I obviously lost a little bit of faith within the system. But, I'm generally a very determined person, and I like to think to myself that whilst moments like this might define careers, I refuse to let this define mine.
"I'm focused on being the best I can be and coming back stronger."
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