Just over an hour before the United States Grand Prix, Ferrari confirmed they had broken a seal on Felipe Massa's car, so incurring a five-place grid penalty.
In dropping Massa from sixth to 11th, it moved Fernando Alonso from eighth to seventh, and crucially on to the clean side of the grid, allowing him greater traction at the start.
It proved successful as Alonso managed to climb to fourth by the end of the first corner, the Spaniard eventually finishing third and losing only three points to runner-up Sebastian Vettel.
It means this year's Formula One world title race goes down to the wire in Sao Paulo on Sunday, with Alonso 13 points adrift.
Ferrari's decision, though, had a knock-on effect as Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, the Lotus of Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna in his Williams all moved from the clean to the dirty side of the grid.
Asked whether he would have done the same as Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali, Whitmarsh said: "I don't think so.
"It was quite a tough thing to do. Team principals decide how to run their programmes, and it is very clear they (Ferrari) are focused on Fernando.
"Lest we forget that when Fernando was with us (in 2007) it was not doing those things that meant he left us.
"But I'm not criticising anyone. You have to go racing as you see fit.
"The toughest thing is that it put a number of people on to the slow side of the grid.
"If I had qualified on the right-hand side of the grid, but then I was moved on to the slow side, I would have been very p***** off.
"And if it had detrimentally affected us I would have been pretty exercised about it, but it didn't."
Appreciably, Domenicali had no qualms about his decision, insisting it was within the spirit of the regulations.
"I prefer to be totally transparent, and I felt it was correct to say this is our style," said Domenicali.
"At the end of the day, retrospectively it was the right thing to do, and I have to thank Felipe for his help. He understood.
"Now if another team principal says we didn't make the right choice then he is lying to you."
Two of the teams affected - Lotus and Force India - both offered contrasting views as to the rights and wrongs of the matter.
Lotus boss Eric Boullier said: "I would have understood if the decision had been made on Saturday night, not on Sunday morning.
"If a seal is broken then it is definitely in the regulations, so there is nothing to complain about.
"But I don't think I would have done the same. Obviously I wasn't in their position, but if I have this problem one day then maybe I will change my mind."
As for Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley, he was firmly behind Domenicali's stance.
"At the end of the day the regulations are what they are, Ferrari took them to the limit, and that's what we do in Formula One," said Fernley.
"We just have to accept it. It didn't really affect us too badly at the start as it happened, so probably there was an over-reaction from Ferrari's point of view.
"But it was important for them, and as long as you are operating in the regulations then it's fine. Whether it's in the spirit or not is another issue.
"However, I would absolutely have done the same. We're not here to try to make friends, we're here to win.
"Outside of what we do here is a different thing entirely, but on the racetrack it's a case of whatever you have to do to make sure you get the results."