Handing Carlos Sainz his 10-place grid penalty at the Las Vegas Grand Prix "felt and was wrong", according to steward Derek Warwick, who was powerless to intervene.
Early in Free Practice 1, Sainz hit a loose water valve cover on the Strip, destroying the monocoque, Internal Combustion Engine, Control Electronics and Energy Store.
As a result, he was required to take a third Energy Store of the season, which would trigger a 10-place grid drop with only two permitted.
Ferrari did request for the penalty to be waived on grounds of force majeure, but while the stewards were sympathetic towards the case, there was no mechanism in the Sporting Regulations to forgive the penalty.
As such, Sainz started 12th after qualifying second, and climbed to sixth by the flag after a first lap spin.
Reflecting on the incident, former Renault, Brabham and Lotus driver Warwick, conceded the penalty "felt wrong."
"It's a difficult job for a steward, the same as a referee, and we've got to be impartial," 1992 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Warwick told Reuters.
"We've got to be strict and we've got to be hard sometimes even when it hurts us.
"The penalty we had to give Sainz in Vegas, it felt wrong, it was wrong, we worked very hard for it not to happen but they're the rules."