Commercial and sporting interests are set to collide head-on when McLaren is summoned to the FIA courtroom to answer five charges of lying to stewards at the Australian Grand Prix.
It is being reported that representatives of the team’s commercial partners have contacted motorsport’s governing body and Formula One Management to express concerns about a potential ban or suspension from racing at the hearing in Paris on Wednesday.
The Daily Telegraph points out that McLaren is still on probation following its offences of two years ago – and that sponsors probably have contract clauses allowing them to terminate their relationship with the team in the case of further disciplinary problems.
It also says that a two-race suspension similar to the one handed to BAR in 2005 could mean McLaren being ruled out of the Barcelona Grand Prix, a key market for Santander.
A four-race ban would see it miss what is still presumed to be the last-ever British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the most crucial race of the year for the team and its headline sponsors such as Vodafone and Johnnie Walker.
An anonymous source described as “close to one of McLaren’s key sponsors” is quoted as pointing out that the affair is having a detrimental effect on sponsorship for the entire sport, implying that the FIA is not viewed as an entirely neutral regulator.
And the financial effect if McLaren does pick up a stiff penalty? Claimed to be potentially severe enough to force the F1 team out of business entirely.
No wonder its parent company is diversifying into production cars.