Gloves off in row over Belgian GP

A war of words has broken out between the European Union's public health chief and motor racing's governing body over the decision to drop the Belgian GP from the 2003 Formula 1 calendar because of tobacco advertising restrictions

Gloves off in row over Belgian GP

"What kind of signal is this to racing fans?" said David Byrne, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, on the dropping of the Belgian GP. "Is the tainted money of big tobacco more important to the Formula 1 machine than the spirit of the sport and the dedication of its fans to one of the most exciting racetracks, which Spa-Francorchamps undoubtedly is?"

However, the FIA fought back and outlined the legal reason behind its decision and accused Byrne and the Commission of double standards.

An FIA statement read: "The decision arises from the need to comply simultaneously with Belgian law and with the Formula 1 team's current sponsorship contracts.

"Had Mr Byrne and the European Commission shown similar respect for legal detail, their original EU directive on tobacco advertising (98/43/EC) would not have been annulled by the European Court of Justice."

The statement also criticised the hypocrisy of the EC's continued subsidies for tobacco farmers, which runs into billions of Euros each year.

Five of the 10 current F1 teams - Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, Jordan and BAR - carry cigarette sponsorship, but the FIA has pledged to co-operate with the global ban on tobacco advertising, which will come into effect from October 1, 2006.

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FIA Hit Back at EU Over Tobacco Sponsors

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