Lewis Hamilton says he “refused to think the race was over” when he was left facing the barriers after a trip into the gravel halfway through Formula 1’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Having lost the lead at the start to Max Verstappen, Hamilton had been hunting down the Red Bull driver when he made a rare error while trying to lap George Russell’s Williams heading into Tosa on Lap 31.

The seven-time world champion slewed off the track in the damp conditions and ran over the gravel before coming to a rest up against the barriers with front-wing damage.

Hamilton was able to recover his Mercedes from the gravel by engaging reverse but by the time he had escaped he was already a lap down and had slipped to ninth.

“It just wouldn’t go to reverse,” Hamilton explained. "I was holding the reverse button and it took forever to engage. I didn’t think it was going to work.

“I tried reversing and tried to do a burnout spin to get going but ended up back in the barrier. It took a long time to get it back into reverse.

“When I was reversing I was like ‘I’ve just got to keep going backwards’ and work my way out in reverse. If I hadn’t done that I would probably still be there.”

Aided by a fortunately-timed red flag period that enabled him to get back onto the lead lap, Hamilton took the restart in P9 and turned in a superb recovery drive to salvage second place and some important points in his battle against Verstappen.

“I think in life when you experience whatever form of adversity, in terms of challenges, or mistakes, or mishaps - whatever hurdles you find that you have to get over, it’s always more satisfying when you overcome them,” Hamilton added.

“It’s not the mistakes that define you. It’s not how you fall, it’s how you get back up. Definitely in that moment for me, you know I don’t make too many mistakes, and it was gutting to be in that position but I honestly feel like these things happen for a reason.

“I remember just sitting there looking at the barrier and I refused to think the race was over. I was refused to believe that the race was done. I could have obviously just turned the car off and got out but I’m grateful that I did the reverse.

“After that, getting out of the car and just trying to switch the anger and turn it into positive energy so I can get back in and turn it forwards, that’s an amazing lesson to be sent and to experience.”