Lewis Hamilton's nightmare season went from bad to worse yesterday when motorsport's governing body, the FIA, announced that his McLaren team had been "invited" to appear before an extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris at the end of the month.
This follows the accusations in Malaysia last weekend that they lied to the stewards of the Australian Grand Prix, which led to Hamilton and McLaren being disqualified from third place in Australia.
It is thought that driver and team could now face exclusion from this year's championship if they are found guilty by the WMSC of the charges they face (see below).
The "invitation" to the meeting on Wednesday 29 April comes despite the disqualification; the suspension and departure of sporting director Dave Ryan; and public apologies from both Hamilton and the team principal Martin Whitmarsh. Whitmarsh said: "Davy made a serious error of judgement, and that is something we have to put right. Lewis was not entirely truthful, but Davy was the senior team member. We're trying to deal with a situation we got wrong."
The summons also flies in the face of the advice the FIA president, Max Mosley, received from his on-the-ground consultant, Alan Donnelly, who was minded to let a disqualification be sufficient. It suggests the FIA is once again seeking to make an example of McLaren as it did in 2007 when it fined the team $100m for their alleged part in the "Stepneygate" spy scandal.
That affair centred around Ferrari and McLaren employees Nigel Stepney and Mike Coughlan, who sought to use confidential Ferrari data to make themselves attractive as technical gurus to the struggling Honda team.
Driving into trouble: Extracts from the FIA's statement of charges
* On 29 March, McLaren told stewards at the Australian Grand Prix that no instructions were given to Lewis Hamilton to let Jarno Trulli pass when both were behind the safety car, knowing this statement to be untrue.
* McLaren procured Hamilton, the world champion, to support and confirm this untrue statement to stewards.
* Although knowing that as a result of their untrue statement to the stewards, another driver and team was unfairly penalised, McLaren made no attempt to rectify the situation by contacting the FIA or otherwise.
* On 2 April, at a second hearing before the stewards of the Australian Grand Prix (in Malaysia), McLaren made no attempt to correct the untrue statement of 29 March, continuing to maintain that the statement was true, despite being allowed to listen to a recording of the team instructing Hamilton to let Trulli past and despite being given opportunities to correct their false statement.
* On 2 April, at the second hearing, procured Hamilton to continue to assert the false statement given to stewards on 29 March, knowing what he was saying was not true.Reuse content