With Ferrari's actions in this year's German Grand Prix due to come under greater scrutiny in little over a week, legal experts have warned the Italian team's rivals that attempting to meddle in the outcome of a race could land them in court.
Although the threat may be largely confined to the British teams - and eight of the twelve current participants are based in the UK - Jonathan Lux of legal firm Ince & Co has said that shareholders would have the right to sue, especially if any fine handed out to the guilty party outweighs the reward the team orders bring.
Ferrari - which, ironically, would not be covered by the 2006 Companies Act as it is based in Italy - ordered Felipe Massa to allow team-mate Fernando Alonso through into the lead of the German GP last month, even though no-one in the team is willing to admit as much. Overt team orders were banned in F1 after the Scuderia manipulated the result of the 2002 Austrian GP, but teams have devised ways of communicating such wishes to their drivers if they are required, albeit more subtly than Ferrari attempted at Hockenheim.
The move was designed to improve Alonso's shot at the world title and the victory, allied to a more unexpected second place in Hungary the following weekend, moved the Spaniard to within 20 points of the championship lead - a deficit that grew again with his retirement in Belgium at the weekend.
According to Britain's Independent
newspaper, Lux warns that any team punished for employing team orders could see 'the directors accused of failing to exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence'.
Ferrari's case is due before the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 8 September, with opponents of team orders calling for gretaer sanction on the Maranello concern than the financial penalty it suffered at the time of the supposed offence. The loss of the points it earned in Germany, reversing the order of its drivers or, most devastatingly, expulsion from the chyampionship have all been mooted as possible courses of action.