McLaren could learn this week whether it is to face greater sanctions for its part in the 'lying' scandal that scarred the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, adding to an already tough start to the 2009 campaign.

With its MP4-24 clearly not working well enough to put the Woking team on a par with the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari in the pursuit of the 'diffuser three', McLaren will be hoping to get off with a slap on the wrist when the FIA decides what punishment to dole out, but it is unlikely to get off that lightly.

Along with world champion Lewis Hamilton, the team has already been stripped of the points it scored in Melbourne, after the Briton and sporting director Dave Ryan were shown to have been economical with the truth when called to discuss a safety car infringement involving Toyota's Jarno Trulli.

While Hamilton subsequently appeared before the media to offer an apology - and claim that he was led by Ryan - the team could face the loss of all future points, a heavy financial penalty or worse should it be called before the FIA's World Motor Sport Council. McLaren veteran Ryan, meanwhile, has been suspended from duty pending further investigations.

"We are now awaiting reports from the FIA observer and stewards before consideration can be given to further investigation of [the] team's conduct," an FIA spokesman told Reuters.

With those reports expected imminently, it has been reported that McLaren's fate could be known as early as tomorrow [Wednesday], although any sanctions may not be forthcoming until the WMSC can convene, and that could leave the team hanging until the start of the European F1 season next month.

While Ryan appears to have been made the scapegoat for the affair, recently-installed team principal Martin Whitmarsh has remained quiet about his own future, although Mercedes motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug has revealed that he is expecting to talk to Ron Dennis' successor some time this week in a bid to clear things up before the on-track action resumes in China on 17 April.

"It's for the shareholders of this team to take a view, and it's ultimately up to them to decide what's best for this team," Whitmarsh told reporters during the Malaysian GP weekend.

Dennis was a the helm, with Whitmarsh as CEO, when McLaren was fined a record $100m and stripped of all its constructors' points in the 'spygate' row that overshadowed the 2007 Formula One season. On that occasion, designer Mike Coughlan took the fall, having been accused of receiving confidential information from Ferrari, and it is possible that the WMSC will take the incident into account when determining the outcome of the latest row involving the team.

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