FIA race director Charlie Whiting has refuted claims of inconsistent stewarding in F1, insisting the accusations are without foundation.
The five-second penalty handed to Max Verstappen last weekend for exceeding track limits and gaining an advantage generated frustration among race fans and criticism from within the F1 paddock about the FIA Stewards' inconsistent calls.
Whiting acknowledged that many drivers had gone beyond the track's boundaries at COTA, but underlined the fact that none gained an advantage, which meant that punishment was not warranted, unlike the case involving Verstappen.
"Leaving the track is not an offence in itself, but if a driver does so he must rejoin the track safely and without gaining any lasting advantage," Whiting said.
"The lasting advantage part is important in this case because there was a number of other occasions when drivers left the track during the race, qualifying and practice that weren't formally looked at by the stewards because there wasn't a lasting advantage there.
"The stewards felt that he [Verstappen] had gained an advantage, he had shortened the track and clearly he was off the track while passing a driver at the same time.
"For them the decision was quite simple, technically, but emotionally it wasn't so easy because the decision had to be made quite quickly."
Whiting revisited several instances which occurred last weekend where drivers ran over the limits, including a tussle between Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas, where the Red Bull driver ran wide at Turn 1.
"We are not too concerned about that because he [Ricciardo] didn't gain any lasting advantage -- in fact he was probably slower.," said Whiting.
"We have to try and take a practical approach to this and there is an element of wanting to let the drivers race as well.
"So it's only when it's absolutely clear that [he gained an advantage] that the stewards need to get involved.
"There were quite a few instances of this happening during the race, but all in all the accusations of inconsistency are pretty much without foundation.
"The only time it was absolutely clear that a driver gained an advantage, the driver was penalised."