Lewis Hamilton has denied reports he was considering leaving Formula 1®, as the seven-time Drivers Champion looks to bounce back from the controversial finale to the 2021 season.
Hamilton was beaten by Red Bull's Max Verstappen in a contentious conclusion to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after race director Michael Masi elected to allow a series of cars to pass a late safety car, permitting one lap of racing with the Dutchman on new tyres.
Masi has since been removed from his role, while rumours abounded that Hamilton could leave the sport. But, speaking at the launch of Mercedes' new W13 car, Hamilton denied that his return was ever in question.
"I never, ever said that I was going to stop", he said. "I love doing what I do, and it is such a privilege working with this large group of people.
"You really feel like you're part of a team and part of a family, working towards that common goal. There's no feeling quite like it.
"But yeah...it was obviously a difficult time for me, and it was a time where I really needed to take a step back and focus on being present."
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff had previously hinted that Hamilton was left 'disillusioned' by finishing second, but the 37-year-old now claims to be focused on making a successful start to the 2022 season next month.
"I eventually got to a point where I decided I was going to be attacking, coming into another season working with Toto and George," he added.
"It's exciting seeing George come in and bring his energy. I can already feel that throughout the team. I think it's going to be an exciting season."
The launch of the W13 sees the German constructor return to its classic silver livery after two years using a black colourway, as part of an anti-racism campaign, and the car has been advertised by Mercedes as '98 per cent new' and as 'the product of a complete redesign from top to bottom'.
With the team bidding for a ninth consecutive Constructors' Championship title, Hamilton is keen to ensure standards remain high.
He said: "Naturally, every single individual within this team has worked towards the ultimate goal of winning the world championship, raising the bar and doing something that no one else has done before."