Lewis Hamilton considered quitting McLaren, and even Formula 1, over the controversy surrounding his exclusion from last week's Australian Grand Prix, according to a report in The Sunday Times newspaper.
The newspaper claims that the world champion was talked out of walking away from the sport by FIA president Max Mosley, after Hamilton contacted the governing body to express his frustration that McLaren had misled him over the affair.
The Briton was disqualified from the Melbourne results after the stewards deemed he and McLaren sporting director Dave Ryan had 'deliberately misled' them about a radio conversation that took place after he had passed Toyota driver Jarno Trulli behind the safety car.
Hamilton and his father Anthony are reported to have been furious that his public perception had been tarnished by the affair, and both apparently insisted McLaren allow him to take the unprecendented step of holding a press conference in the FIA media centre so he could come clean about the situation.
He subsequently made an emotional open apology to the stewards and his fans. "I was misled and that is the way it went," he told the press. "I would like to say a big sorry to all my fans who have believed in me, who have supported me for years, who I showed who I am for the past three years, and it is who I am. I am not a liar. I am not a dishonest person.
Bernie Ecclestone told the Daily Mail: "Lewis is terribly upset but his father is even more upset having his son called a cheat. Anthony has brought Lewis up not to be like that and he is disappointed somebody has called him a liar when he isn't deliberately lying."
Hamilton's future with McLaren now remains unclear. BBC commentator Martin Brundle pointed out in his Sunday Times column today that the 24-year-old could walk free from his multi-year contract citing a breach on the team's behalf.
"McLaren could also now be perceived to be in breach of Lewis's contract for bringing him into disrepute especially as a senior team member has taken the whole rap," said Brundle, who raced for McLaren in 1994. "This would make him a free agent if he wanted to move teams."
Brundle also suggested that the scandal may stay with Hamilton forever. "The Briton's reputation has understandably taken a battering but a sense of perspective is required here.
"He will recover from this in time but he will have to live with the stigma in perpetuity, just as [Michael] Schumacher does. It will always be mentioned in his epitaph."