Hamilton sorry for 'huge mistake'
World champion Lewis Hamilton insists he is not "dishonest" after being disqualified from the Australian Grand Prix for misleading race stewards.
He claims Dave Ryan, McLaren's sporting director, had instructed him to "withhold information".
"I'm not a liar or a dishonest person," said the Englishman, who added the affair had definitely been "the worst thing I've experienced in my life".
Ryan, who has been with McLaren for 35 years, has been suspended by the team.
I just wanted to tell of what happened and I was misled. I want to say sorry to all my fans
McLaren and Hamilton, 24, were found by the FIA, motorsport's world governing body, to have given stewards "deliberately misleading" evidence in a post-race hearing on Sunday.
That evidence led to race stewards handing Toyota's Jarno Trulli a 25-second penalty for passing Hamilton behind the safety car, demoting the Italian from third to 12th.
But after discovering that Hamilton and Ryan had provided inaccurate information about the incident, the FIA subsequently stripped Hamilton of his podium finish and reinstated Trulli to third.
Hamilton had told stewards he had not been told to allow Trulli to pass him when the opposite was true, a fact borne out by team radio transmissions.
"I could not tell you how sorry I am for the embarrassment," Hamilton, the youngest driver to become world champion, told a news conference after his opening practice sessions in Sepang on Friday.
"I sincerely apologise to the race stewards for wasting their time and making them look silly.
"When I went into the meeting, I had no intention (to lie). I just wanted to tell my story and see what happened. I was misled and that's just how it went.
"I want to say sorry to all my fans. I am not a liar or a dishonest person, I am a team player. If the team ask me to do something, I generally do it.
McLaren chief Whitmarsh admits answers 'weren't honest'
"But I felt awkward and uncomfortable.
"This is not an easy thing to do, to step back and realise I was in the wrong. But I was in the wrong, I was misled."
The fallout for McLaren has been significant, with senior official Ryan, who accompanied Hamilton to both hearings with race stewards on Sunday in Melbourne, sent home from practice in Malaysia on Friday.
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh said Ryan had not been "entirely full and truthful with the answers he gave" to the stewards and had left the team with "no alternative but to suspend him".
Whitmarsh added: "He did not set out with a deliberate intention to mislead, but during the course of the meeting he was not as clear as he should have been.
"He made a very serious error of judgement and is paying the consequences for that."
Whitmarsh said it was a "very sad day" for McLaren, adding: "It is a point of deep regret. For Davey, it's been a shattering day."
A contrite Whitmarsh also apologised to the FIA for the problems McLaren had caused.
"In my 20-odd years working for McLaren, I doubt if I've met a more dedicated individual than Davey," said Whitmarsh.
"He's been an integral part of McLaren since 1974 and has played a crucial role in the team's many world championship successes."
The FIA has hinted Hamilton could now be in the clear over the incident but warned that McLaren may face further sanction.
"We recognise Lewis's efforts to set the record straight," said an FIA spokesman. "It would appear he was put in an impossible position.
"We are now awaiting reports from the FIA observer and stewards before consideration can be given to further investigation of the team's conduct.
Row has damaged Hamilton - Brundle
"We cannot rule out the matter being referred to the World Motor Sport Council."
Former team owner Eddie Jordan told BBC Sport the incident could affect Hamilton's future with the McLaren team.
"There was a lot of talk before the season started about 'will Lewis stay at McLaren?'," he said. "This could be the very action that may start that dialogue and those rumours again.
"This will have the rumour-mongers going because we heard over the Christmas period that Hamilton was not happy about certain things that have happened.
"He certainly is not going to be happy with the car because it is not competitive enough."