On the eve of McLaren’s appearance in front of the World Motorsport Council on five charges of bringing Formula One into disrepute, there is a glimmer of hope for the team of the reigning world champion.
Formula One promoter Bernie Ecclestone has hinted that the Woking-based outfit should not expect a penalty so harsh that it risks forcing the withdrawal of its sponsors and suppliers – and thus potentially its exit from the sport.
This should come as a major encouragement not only to fans of the team, but to all those in the wider F1 community who simply want to see its battles fought out on the track with a clear set of rules, rather than in stewards’ rooms and courts for weeks and weeks after a race is over.
A concern that has emerged, especially from engine supplier Mercedes, is that the sport they are investing so heavily in is not perceived as being fairly and impartially regulated.
But Ecclestone, a WMSC member, told The Times newspaper he was certain that McLaren would receive a “fair” punishment.
He added: “I am absolutely positive that Mercedes would like to look upon this as fair for everybody and, if there is any punishment to be meted out, it will be fair and I am sure they would support that.
“I don’t think they would decide to leave Formula One because somebody had done something wrong and been punished. I think they will be very fair.”
Tomorrow the World Motor Sport Council, which in 2007 fined McLaren £50 million and put it on two years’ probation for a breach of the rules which also attracted controversy over its fairness, must pilot a tricky course.
It needs to be seen to act firmly against a team that has admitted how its members misled stewards following the Australian Grand Prix.
But it needs to do so while preserving the understanding that the sport is conducted on a level playing field – something that it has not always managed in the past.