Sergio Hernandez looks like being gifted the Independents' title in the World Touring Car Championship after Proteam Motorsport team-mate Stefano D'Aste revealed he won't make the trip to Macau for the final rounds of the season.
D'Aste revealed that he won't take part in the final two races of the campaign in protest at the five-place grid penalty he was awarded following the second race of the weekend at Okayama.
The Italian was handed the penalty for an incident with Tiago Monteiro after the pair clashed while fighting for third place, with D'Aste outbraking himself into the hairpin at the end of the back straight and making contact with Monteiro's SEAT. D'Aste was forced to retire from the race as a result after losing a wheel on his BMW 320si.
With the penalty being given at a circuit where over-taking is far from easy, D'Aste has taken the decision to withdraw from Macau in protest, stating that it had been made 'impossible' for him to fight for the title.
"The penalty that they have given me was excessive," he said. "At Okayama I made a mistake that I paid a high price for. Penalising me five positions removes any chance of a useful result for the championship at a track like Macau, which is very fast and narrow."
Team owner Valmiro Mattoli was also disappointed with the penalty handed down to his driver, admitting that an Independent driver would never intentionally get involved in an incident which could have a detrimental effect on already tight budgets.
"All of the team is displeased with the penalty inflicted on Stefano, which means our driver has decided that he will not be present to compete in Macau," he said. "D'Aste committed a mistake, no-one denies that, but the contact between Stefano and Monteiro was not deliberate, and our car took a lot of damage.
"An Independent team and an Independent driver never seek contact because the damages weigh heavily on the budget of the team."