A contrite Lewis Hamilton said suspended McLaren team manager Dave Ryan told him to lie to stewards at last weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Describing the subsequent furore as the worst thing he had experienced in his life, Formula One's youngest champion apologised on Friday to the stewards and fans for his behaviour and assured them it would never happen again.
"I was misled," the Briton told an extraordinary news conference at the Malaysian Grand Prix, a day after he was stripped of the third place he had been awarded at last weekend's season-opening race in Melbourne.
"I'm not a liar, I'm not a dishonest person, I'm a team player. And every time I've been informed to do something, I've done it.
"This time I realise that it was a huge mistake and I am learning from it," he said. "It has taken a huge toll on me."
The stewards had ruled that Hamilton and the team had been "deliberately misleading" at the first enquiry that demoted Toyota's Jarno Trulli from third to 12th for illegally overtaking Hamilton behind the safety car.
Hamilton had denied being asked by McLaren to let Trulli past, despite team radio and media comments suggesting the opposite.
Sounding hoarse and subdued, the 24-year-old said he had "never felt so bad".
"While waiting for the stewards I was instructed and misled by my team manager to withhold information and that's what I did," he explained.
"I sincerely apologise to the stewards for wasting their time and for making them look silly. I am very, very sorry for the situation..."
Hamilton, whose team sent Ryan home earlier on Friday after blaming him for the storm that led to their exclusion from the Australian Grand Prix, said the events of the last day had been hard to deal with.
"I'm here to apologise to everyone and assure you it won't happen again," he added.
Hamilton said it was not easy for him to put his hand up and admit he had erred. "The fact is, I was in the wrong," he said. "I feel I owe it to my fans and my people to let them know. It's easy to be misled sometimes.
"I have not gone through my life being a liar or dishonest. So for people to say I am dishonest and for the world to think that... what can I say?"
The champion said nobody else in McLaren apart from Ryan was involved, that he had not intended to gain a place with false information and had yet to apologise personally to Trulli.
"I earn my points and position through hard work and that's not the way I think," he said.
"This situation is definitely the worst thing I have experienced in my life and that's why I am here. It's right for me as a human being and as a man to stand in front of you... and put my hands up and say I couldn't tell you how sorry I am."
The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA), which has not ruled out further sanctions against the driver and team, broke with their usual protocol in allowing Hamilton to hold the news conference in the media centre -- something he was not allowed to do when he won the title in Brazil last year.
The FIA's non-voting chairman of stewards Alan Donnelly was in the audience, as was Hamilton's father Anthony.