The world champion disappeared from the public spotlight after losing the championship last year following the FIA’s controversial handling of a late race safety car restart at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamilton made no public comments about what happened in Abu Dhabi, as his Mercedes boss Toto Wolff made clear he was ‘disillusioned’ with everything that had happened.

That prompted concerns that Hamilton could elect to walk away from F1 after feeling that the sport had lost credibility because of what happened.

But appearing for the first time at the launch of the new Mercedes W13 at Silverstone on Friday, Hamilton explained that, while he needed to get away from everything for a while, he quickly concluded that he would come back in a fighting mood.

“I never, ever said that I was going to stop,” said Hamilton. “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 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. I had my family all around me, and creating great moments.

“And I eventually got to a point where I decided I was going to be attacking coming into another season, and working with Toto and George [Russell].

“It’s exciting seeing George come in and bringing his energy. I can already feel that throughout the team. I think it’s going to be an exciting season.”

The Mercedes launch comes one day after the FIA announced its response to the Abu Dhabi controversy.

As well as moving F1 race director Michael Masi aside, it is to set up a virtual race control room and tweak the safety car rules to prevent repeat problems in the future.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who vowed to hold the FIA ‘accountable’ for its failings in Abu Dhabi, said he welcomed the governing body’s response.

“I think it’s very encouraging to see that action has been taken,” said Wolff at the launch of the team’s W13.

“There is a much more robust structure now and support structure for the racing director. The FIA has stated that there will be a virtual race control room, state of the art technology, and now we shall be going, the new guys are going to be in place for the Barcelona test. I think the right steps.”

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