Lewis Hamilton has admitted that he considered quitting the sport after the scandal in which he was found guilty of lying to race stewards.
Hamilton, 24, was disqualified from the Australian Grand Prix after it emerged he and his McLaren team gave misleading evidence over a race incident.
The world champion told BBC Sport that public criticism affected him deeply.
"I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to be here for the next five years [the length of his McLaren contract]," he conceded.
"There was so much going on. Do I want to be in the limelight with people slating me?
Do I want be in the spotlight where I can't even go to go to the fish and chip shop or the cinema and have fun without people taking pictures of me?
"Do I want be in the spotlight where I can't even go to go to the fish and chip shop or the cinema and have fun without people taking pictures of me?
"But if I want to race this car and if I want to continue doing this, that's what I've got to do."
Asked if he had now made that decision, Hamilton said: "I definitely have. And it's because of my fans.
"Regardless of what anyone else says, I'm going to go out there and give it 100% always, there will be times when I don't do so well. I'm human, you know.
"But there'll be times when I rock the socks off it. And I hope you enjoy it, they're going to continue to support me and I really just want to embrace them and say thank you to all of them. They've been fantastic."
Hamilton has been the focus of intense public scrutiny since the scandal broke in the run up to the Malaysian GP last month.
He has laid the responsibility for his actions at the door of former McLaren sporting director Dave Ryan, who has been blamed for concocting the plan to mislead the stewards.
Hamilton was initially promoted to third place in Australia after it was ruled that Toyota's Jarno Trulli had illegally overtaken him while the field was being controlled by the safety car.
Hamilton has gone from ecstasy to despair in a matter of months
But it emerged that Hamilton had let Trulli past and that he had been told to do so by the team - both of which he and Ryan denied when asked by the stewards.
McLaren face a hearing at F1's disciplinary court, the FIA World Motor Sport Council, on Wednesday, where they may yet face further punishment over the affair.
There has been speculation that Hamilton's relationship with McLaren might have been irreparably damaged by the situation.
And Hamilton did little to dampen those claims when he gave an equivocal answer to a question about whether he would see out his contract with the team, which runs until 2012.
But he told BBC Sport in his interview at the Bahrain Grand Prix: "My commitment should never be questioned because I'm very committed to the sport and I'm very, very committed to my team.
"I love this team. I have been here for many years. Since I was 10 years old I said this was who I wanted to drive for and I'm driving for them now.
"We won a world championship together. We just missed a world championship together and there's going to be many, many more years when we win and lose.
"We'll have bad seasons. But the great thing is that we're a team. It's very much a family environment.
"I'm happy where I am. When I spoke about it was because I wasn't 100% sure I would be here for the next five years."
Hamilton admitted that this season, in which he has also been struggling with an uncompetitive car, had been "pretty tough".
Asked if he was still enjoying being an F1 driver, he said: "No. There's nothing else to say about it. I love driving the car. I love my job. There's nothing anyone can take away from me in that sense.
"But when you're surrounded by politics and all these different things going on, you know...
"I'm here to have fun and entertain and win and race my heart out. But everyone has to have an opinion about everything."
He added: "It has been incredibly hard. I'm sure a lot of my fans have had an idea of how tough it has been, to really go through such a low with the team after such great success last year.
"We wanted to start on a high, to keep pushing regardless of whether we've got not such a great car at the moment, we just wanted to improve and stay quiet. Clearly that was not the case.
"I race because I love racing. This has been my dream for many years. But the greatest thing was that I had so much support."
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