Second-placed qualifier Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari looks on in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Las Vegas at Las Vegas Strip Circuit on November 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: AFP
Sainz's car hit a loose drain cover in Thursday's abandoned first practice and suffered damage.
Ferrari had to change a host of power unit components in order for the Spaniard to continue.
But with Sainz using his third energy store of the season, one more than is allowed by regulations, he was handed the penalty - despite not being at fault himself.
Race stewards had said that sanction was mandatory but there have been reports that some teams may have lobbied to ensure there was no leniency.
"Personally, I do think it's very harsh on Carlos, but in this political environment that we are in, of course every team thinks about themselves, and they're of course going to say 'yes, take the penalty'," said Verstappen.
Sainz finished second in qualifying on Friday but will start in 11th place on the grid in Saturday's race.
Red Bull's Verstappen suggested the rules need to be re-examined.
"It's the same if you get taken out, and you have a big accident; you can lose parts, engine, energy store, these kinds of things," Verstappen explained.
"First of all, that needs to change so that these things can be taken into consideration, that if you can take a free, let's say, penalty or not.
"And besides that, I think the teams should not be allowed to have a say in these kinds of things because, for sure, they're going to vote against that," he said.
Sainz was unsurprisingly bitter about the punishment.
"There was clearly a safety issue with the track. That safety issue destroyed my car. My mechanics had to invest five hours in putting together a completely new car and, on top of that, we get a 10-place penalty for something that we have nothing to do (with)," he said.
"Just disappointed. At the same time, not surprised because there's been many cases this year that I think the sport has proven that it can do things a lot better.
"I'm surprised the governing body doesn't have the power, in cases of force majeure, to let's say overrule a bit in this kind of situation, where it's so clear that it's completely out of the team's control, completely out of the driver's control.
"I don't know. The rules, the governing body, the teams, I don't know. I expected more from the sport in this situation," he said.
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