Reigning Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton has confessed that whilst he 'used to enjoy' the sport, 'part of that has been taken away' from him in the wake of the damaging Melbourne 'lies' scandal - and he now feels like someone 'who goes to jail but feels they shouldn't be behind bars'.

Hamilton has endured a torrid and harrowing start to his title defence in 2009, being forced to grapple with an uncompetitive and aerodynamically-poor McLaren-Mercedes MP4-24 that has left him with just nine points on the board five races in - 32 fewer than world championship-leading compatriot Jenson Button and 28 fewer than he himself had at the same stage last year en route to the crown.

Worse still, he has had to deal with being labelled a liar over the unsavoury Australian Grand Prix episode that saw both the Briton and respected long-time McLaren team manager Dave Ryan publicly pilloried for having attempted to deliberately mislead race stewards over a late-race safety car incident in which they seemingly endeavoured to get Toyota's Jarno Trulli unjustly disqualified in order to inherit the Italian's podium place.

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Though the FIA subsequently went comparatively easy on the Woking-based outfit and its star driver in a World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) hearing into the matter, the stigma from what Hamilton described at the time as his 'lowest ebb' - and something that drove him to the brink of walking away from the sport - remains.

"I just feel knocked out by it all," the 24-year-old told The Times. "It's got to be a similar feeling to anyone who goes to jail but feels they shouldn't be behind bars. That is the feeling I have had, although I know what happened in Australia was wrong.

"I want to be a driver - I am not in the sport to be a politician. I used to enjoy Formula 1, and part of that has been taken away from me. I never imagined there would be so much politics when I came into Formula 1. It definitely was a shock. There has been too much time taken up with it.

"Unfortunately, it is the way the Formula 1 world works for some reason. It's much nicer in the lower categories, where all the people are there just to race and the teams are there just to race."

On the subject of racing, the Stevenage-born ace is adamant, by contrast, that he has not entirely given up hope of retaining his hard-fought drivers' trophy, despite the Spanish Grand Prix last weekend having yielded a lowly ninth place finish as he admitted to having 'driven his heart out' again for no reward.

As Button laps up the plaudits, Hamilton is conversely languishing in the doldrums - but he remains confident of a turnaround, and after considerable uncertainty sought to stress the enduring strength of his relationship with McLaren, the team that has nurtured and supported him for more than a decade.

"I never give up so I have not given up," he told the BBC. "I've been through some tough times in my life and McLaren have always been loyal to me. We stay with them. We're going to have some tough times together, but we'll have many, many successful years together [too] so I'm going to keep on working hard with them.

"Brawn have a championship-winning car. It is going to be tough, but the ambition is always to win. If we've still not scored many points by the time we get to mid-season, we may have to knock it on the head [then].

"We hope that something clicks with our car and it gives us the downforce that we need - then we will be right back up there. [Monaco] is not really a high-speed circuit, so the gap between ourselves and Brawn will be a lot less than it was in Barcelona. We can take a step closer to them and be challenging for a top five place."

Indeed, the nine-time grand prix-winner found himself lapped by Button around the Circuit de Catalunya - a track that was always going to expose the MP4-24's inherent weaknesses. He may have triumphed around the winding, tortuous streets of the Principality this time last year, but it is his countryman who is in pole position to do so twelve months on - and Hamilton confessed that he is happy that F1's oft-overlooked 'other' Briton is finally getting the recognition he deserves.

"Jenson is doing a great job," he asserted. "I've always had a lot of respect for him. I've known him since I was about nine or ten years old and I wish him all the best. When he arrived in F1 he was a superstar, but he got into a car that wasn't particularly quick and it went downhill rather than up. He struggled for years in a very similar position to where I am [now]. For him to finally get a good car and understand exactly how good that feels would be a great feeling."