Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone says McLaren were "minutes away" from being thrown out of the World Championships of 2007 and 2008 because of 'spygate'.
Ecclestone believes Formula One will be much more open now
McLaren were fined £49.2m and lost their points in the constructors' championship after being found guilty of receiving data from a Ferrari spy.
But Ecclestone told the BBC: "It came very close to McLaren being thrown out, it really was a genuine possibility.
"A few of us sort of battled on and campaigned for the fine instead."
Had McLaren been thrown out of the championship altogether, it would have meant the end of the drivers' title challenges of both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.
The threat is there now - even if it's a smaller team, they're gone
The row centred on McLaren being in possession of a confidential 780-page technical document belonging to Ferrari.
In a 16-page document, motorsport's governing body, the FIA, said e-mails showed that McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa and reigning world champion Fernando Alonso had been aware of the Ferrari data.
Ecclestone said there was no doubt that a similarly heavy punishment would be handed out in future if any other team was found guilty of the same offence.
"Formula One is now more open than it has ever been because the threat is definitely there now if any team is helping anyone else," added Ecclestone.
"Even if it is a smaller team than McLaren, they're gone, without any hesitation.
"The alternative to the fine was worse, being excluded from the championship for two years. It was much closer than everybody says it was.
"It really would have been bad news. McLaren would have lost more than they have been fined, if they'd have been able to keep going."