Lewis Hamilton believes his Formula One career could have taken a significant turn for the worse had Felipe Massa beaten him to the drivers' championship ten years ago.
Hamilton pipped Massa to the 2008 title by a single point after securing the finishing position he needed to win on the final corner of the final lap of the final race of the season. The title victory came one year after he missed out on the 2007 crown by a single point to Kimi Raikkonen -- a championship he could have secured at the penultimate round in China had he not run into a gravel trap while pitting for new tyres.
Hamilton was 22 in 2007 and said another defeat at such a young age a year later would have left him mentally broken.
"It was definitely one of the most, if not the most devastating experiences losing the first year [in 2007]," he told ESPN. "Even though I didn't expect to win in my first year, the stresses and strains of going through that first year were too much to take as immature as my mind was.
"Then to have to dig myself out of that bottomless pit that I was in, because I was in a deep pit at the end of the 2007, to come back in 2008, be strong, win the first race and then get to the end of the year again ... I don't know how I would have come back from it."
Hamilton was speaking as a key contributor to ESPN's oral history of the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Asked if losing out on the 2008 championship would have impacted his whole career after that point, he said: "I think so. I don't know how sportsmen find a way to come back.
"I know there are way worse things that can happen in life, but when you have a psychological low, you see sportsmen who are really great and then they have that one blow and it's hard for them to come back."