Carlos Sainz says his respect for Lewis Hamilton has increased as a result of the title heartbreak his rival suffered in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton endured the ultimate sporting agony at the 2021 season finale, looking set all the way through the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to capture a record-breaking eighth Drivers’ World Championship only to have it snatched away at the last moment by Max Verstappen.
And it was not due to a mistake by Hamilton or his Mercedes team, or even an untimely injection of bad luck. Instead, it all came down to the way the closing stages of the grand prix were managed by race director Michael Masi and the highly controversial decisions he took.
Before the magnitude of what happened had started to sink in, Hamilton went through the usual post-race procedures of handshakes, parc ferme interview and podium ceremony.
He finished second in the race to new champion Verstappen, with Sainz third, and therefore the Ferrari man had a prime view of exactly how the scenario was affecting the Briton.
The magnanimous way in which Hamilton reacted to his anguish impressed the Spaniard.
Asked during an interview with Corriere della Sera how he thought Hamilton would have been feeling, Sainz said: “Very bad. And I was surprised at how he avoided making a mess at the end of the race.
“Losing the title on the last lap like that is really hard to accept. I respect him more than ever for the way he managed to behave. We had a few words on the podium and he was really struggling.”
The FIA are set to present the findings from their investigation into what happened at Yas Marina at an F1 Commission meeting on Monday February 14, before everything is finalised and ratified to be revealed publicly on Friday March 18 – free practice day for the 2022 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Sainz, a keen football fan and Real Madrid supporter, says he does not want F1 to become like that sport where referees are constantly analysed and criticised for the decisions they make.
“We need to avoid repeating the same mistake,” said Sainz, who is less than a fortnight away from driving the new Ferrari F1-75 for the first time out on track in Barcelona’s pre-season session.
“Every football match generates controversy. We need to prevent F1 from approaching that kind of tension. But I don’t think the situation is disastrous, I’m convinced it is improving.”
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