Madrid: Fernando Alonso`s Formula One title hopes could suffer a knockout blow when the sport`s governing body decides Ferrari`s fate at a Paris hearing on Wednesday.
The Italian team, preparing for their home race at Monza this weekend, have already been fined $100,000 for manipulating the German Grand Prix in July through the use of banned `team orders`.
The International Automobile Federation (FIA)`s world motor sport council must now decide whether that penalty, imposed by race stewards, was sufficient punishment.
Their options are unlimited, with a points deduction or suspended ban considered likely if further sanctions are agreed.
Neither double champion Alonso nor Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa will be present at the hearing, although a Ferrari spokesman said both drivers would be contactable should council members wish to hear from them.
"I shouldn`t think the drivers will get a penalty," McLaren`s world champion Jenson Button, who is fourth overall and six points ahead of Alonso, told Reuters after the last race in Belgium.
"It will be the team, if they do get another penalty, because it was an order from the team.”
"Personally I don`t understand why they don`t just change the points around of those two (drivers), the points they got in that race, but they obviously can`t do that within the regulations," added the Briton.
Former FIA president Max Mosley, who remains an influential figure in the governing body and was in charge when the ban on team orders was introduced in 2002, believes both team and drivers should be heavily punished.
"If one wants to fulfil the needs of the audience, then one must maintain the ban," the Briton told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag last month.
"Both cars and both drivers should lose the points they achieved in the German Grand Prix."
Should Alonso be stripped of the 25 points he won at Hockenheim, the Spaniard would remain fifth overall but 66 points adrift of McLaren`s overall leader Lewis Hamilton with six races remaining.
Ferrari, who would have had a one-two finish at Hockenheim even without team orders being invoked, are currently third overall and 80 points adrift of leaders Red Bull.
They are likely to argue that no explicit order was ever issued, with Massa merely being told that Alonso was quicker and then acting on that information.
The hearing is as much about the very nature of the sport as one single offence and will be controversial whatever the outcome.
There are those who argue that team orders should be legalised since they have been part of Formula One since the championship started in 1950 and have never really gone away.
Others say rules must be respected and to encourage overt manipulation of results would be a betrayal of the spirit of fair competition.