Carlos Sainz has revealed he 'respects' Lewis Hamilton more for the way he handled the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix controversy despite "really struggling".
The Spaniard also insisted F1's situation since the event, with FIA race director Michael Masi remaining under intense scrutiny, is not "disastrous".
Ferrari driver Sainz was the forgotten man of the 2021 season finale after finishing third, with the opportunity to overtake Max Verstappen and Hamilton taken away from him due to backmarkers between himself and the Red Bull remaining in place as part of the botched procedures behind the final safety car.
Asked how he would have felt had he been in Hamilton's position, Sainz told Corriere Della Sera: "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, it's just hard to accept.
"I respect him more than before for the way he managed to do it. We had a few words on the podium, he was really struggling [to comprehend the situation]."
The incident was the last of a string of controversies last term but Sainz believes the sport is learning from its errors.
"We must not repeat the same mistake," he added.
"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 that it is improving."