BAR Seek Urgent Guidance on Tobacco

BAR have urged the British government to clarify a new law on tobacco sponsorship before it comes into force at Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix

The British-based Formula One team fear British legislation enforcing a European Union (EU) directive against tobacco advertising could leave them open to prosecution if they run with cigarette branding in Budapest.

"We have asked the British government numerous times through (team owners) British American Tobacco for clarification," BAR team principal Nick Fry said at the German Grand Prix last weekend.

"We're somewhat frustrated that we haven't had a clear answer on this. We need something in writing, something firm.

"There has been an ongoing request for clarification that has been going on for six months now but we are none the wiser."

The new law enforces an EU directive which outlaws all print advertising, radio advertising and event sponsorship by tobacco companies from July 31.

Legislation in Britain could allow for prosecution of any British-based team if images of a race where tobacco sponsorship is carried are broadcast in the country, even if that race is outside the EU.

BAR, Renault and Jordan are all British-based with tobacco sponsorship.

"There was a positive indication in a question in the House (of Commons) but that is not nearly enough for what could be a criminal act," said Fry.

"We haven't had anything firm yet and for it be less than a week away now is frustrating to say the least."

A spokeswoman for the British Department of Health said she expected government advice would be issued this week.

Different Options

Fry said BAR would be taking three different livery options to Hungary while team employees would take three distinct sets of clothing.

"We're all taking big bags to Budapest," he said.

Five teams currently carry tobacco sponsorship including Italy-based Ferrari and McLaren, who are expected to end their nine-year relationship with West cigarettes this week.

Renault team principal Flavio Briatore, whose team are sponsored by Japan Tobacco's Mild Seven brand, said he was also waiting for clarification.

"We will see what happens with the letter we need to receive from the government and then we will see, in a few days, what will happen," he said.

Jordan would not discuss their tobacco sponsorship but were expected to take advice from Gallaher, who own the Benson and Hedges and Sobranie brands.

The three McLaren cars are expected to carry the logo of West cigarettes for the last time in Friday practice at the Hungaroring.

The Mercedes-powered team's relationship with the Imperial Tobacco-owned brand will then come to an end.

A deal with Johnnie Walker signed in February is likely to come into effect for the last two days of the race weekend although the Diageo-owned whisky brand is not expected to replace West as title sponsors.

A spokesman for Ferrari, whose deal with Phillip Morris's Marlboro brand is thought to be worth some $60 million a year, said at Hockenheim that the Fiat-owned team's position remained very simple.

"You look at the law of the country and follow that," he said, adding that he could see no reason why Ferrari's relationship with Marlboro would not continue past the expiration of the current deal at the end of 2006.

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