Lewis Hamilton has revealed he "needed to take a step back" during the "difficult time" after the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
But the seven-time world champion has insisted he "never ever said I was going to stop".
The Mercedes driver missed out on a record-breaking eighth title triumph after Max Verstappen made the most of a late safety car period at Yas Marina, the procedures during which have seen Michael Masi removed from the role of FIA race director.
Team principal Toto Wolff had questioned whether Hamilton would return, such was his 'disillusionment' with the sport in the aftermath of the season finale, but speaking for the first time in 68 days at the launch of the W13, the Briton explained his silence.
Put to him that the sport was concerned he would not return, Hamilton replied: "Well, I never ever said I was going to stop.
"I love doing what I do and it is such a privilege working with this large group of people and you really feel like you are a part of a family, a part of the team and working towards a common goal, there is no feeling quite like it.
"I needed to... 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. I had my family all around me and creating great moments.
"I eventually got to the point where I decided I could be attacking again coming into another season working with Toto and George [Russell].
"It is exciting watching George come in and bringing his energy. I can already feel that throughout the team and I think it is going to be an exciting season."