Less than 24 hours after seeing rival Renault let off without so much as a dollar leaving its bank account, McLaren - the recipient of the $100m slap on the wrist for its own spying affair - will be back before the World Motor Sport Council to hear whether its next F1 campaign will be jeopardised..

The third espionage-related appearance of the year for the Woking concern should determine whether or not it starts the 2008 campaign with a points deficit, or worse, as reports detailing the design and build process of next year's car are examined.

McLaren has been told that, if anything suggesting that data contained in the now infamous Ferrari dossier has found its way onto the MP4-23, it will be subject to further draconian punishment, with the ultimate possibility of the team being expelled from the world championship.

A team of FIA-appointed technical experts has visited McLaren headquarters over the last month to determine whether the latest design has been influenced by the document handed to disgraced penman Mike Coughlan by Ferrari's Nigel Stepney at the start of the long-running espionage row that has since gone on to engulf Renault - and could ultimately expose others on the F1 grid.

FIA president Max Mosley has led the suggestions that McLaren could start the 2008 campaign - in which the team is expected to give Lewis Hamilton another shot at the world title - with 'negative points', but it remains to be seen whether any further punishment will be meted out in what many see as a persecution.

The matter was heightened by the World Motor Sport Council's decision to find Renault guilty of possessing McLaren data - which was taken to Enstone by a former McLaren employee, Phil Mackereth and viewed by a handful of key personnel - but not punished for doing so.

A similar verdict was handed down to McLaren after the first hearing into its row with Ferrari, only for an appeal - instigated by the Italian outfit - to result in the stiffer punishments that rocked F1 insiders in September. The Woking team has not revealed whether it intends to take the matter further.

 

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