PARIS: Reigning Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton's McLaren team faces charges of bringing the sport into disrepute at a special hearing on Wednesday.
Hamilton has been struggling on the track so far this season, and it could get worse for the British driver if he and his team are severely punished for lying to stewards at the Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton and former McLaren chief executive Ron Dennis were not expected to attend Wednesday's hearing, likely leaving team principal Martin Whitmarsh to answer the questions by himself.
"We've made mistakes. We've apologized to the FIA. We'll await their decision," Whitmarsh said.
Asked if this is the end of the affair, Whitmarsh replied, "I very much hope so. I hope this will draw a line and we can carry on with racing." FIA President Max Mosley, and Bernie Ecclestone, chief of F1, all attended the meeting.
Hamilton has earned only nine points through the first four F1 races this season, trailing championship leader Jenson Button by 22.
He could fall further behind depending on how severely the World Motor Sport Council punishes McLaren.
He could face a race ban or a points deduction - perhaps both - which would further dent his title chances ahead of next month's Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona.
The worst case scenario for the team is that McLaren and Hamilton would be excluded from this year's entire championship, although McLaren has since made efforts at reconciliation and such a severe penalty seems unlikely.
The last team to be suspended from the championship was BAR in 2005 for having a hidden extra fuel tank.
McLaren has been in the firing line before. Two years ago, the team was fined a record US$100 million and stripped of its constructors' points for having obtained secret information about rival Ferrari's car.
A fresh shadow was cast over Hamilton and his McLaren team several weeks ago when the sport's governing body accused them of lying to race officials at the season opening race in Melbourne.
The hearing will examine how McLaren lied to race officials when it said Hamilton was not given instructions to let Toyota's Jarno Trulli make an illegal overtaking move while the pair were behind the safety car.
Trulli was initially hit with a penalty of 25 seconds for overtaking, giving Hamilton third place.
McLaren then passed up two opportunities to rectify evidence it knew was false, and this led the FIA to dock Hamilton's points and McLaren's results from Melbourne.
Hamilton apologized, saying he was "instructed and misled" about evidence by sporting director Dave Ryan, whom McLaren has blamed for masterminding the deception.