Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has hinted that McLaren could face expulsion from a number of Grands Prix this season as punishment for lying to stewards.
Ecclestone told the Daily Express that McLaren's past offences could be taken into account when they face the World Motor Sport Council on April 29, saying the current breaches are tantamount to fraud.
?We need to investigate closer what went on. It is about stealing a point and a place but those are worth money so basically it is fraud, although I am sure it started off more innocently without thought of the consequences,? Ecclestone said.
?There are many options open if the charge sticks and it would be a terrible thing if any team were banned from races. But it could happen. It is not so long ago that McLaren were in front of the Council and it is never good for anyone if you are back in court quickly for something similar.?
The proposition that McLaren could face a race ban isn't without precedent. In 2005, the then BAR-Honda team was banned from competing in two races for running their cars 11 pounds under weight.
BAR was accused of deliberately cheating, using fuel as ballast to gain a speed advantage, and although this wasn't proven, they still received a hefty punishment from the FIA International Court of Appeal.
The FIA announced in a statement at the time:
?It is not possible for the court to find, on the basis of the evidence that it was provided with, that Lucky Strike BAR Honda deliberately committed fraud."
Instead, the court decided the team displayed "a highly regrettable negligence and lack of transparency," by failing to clarify the system with stewards.
Compounding McLaren's problem though, is that the WMSC is able to hand out any punishment it sees fit, meaning there is a real threat of being excluded from the Constructor's Championship.