McLaren Plan Early Switch from Tobacco

McLaren are planning to bring an earlier than expected end to their sponsorship deal with tobacco company West, Autosport-Atlas has learned

McLaren Plan Early Switch from Tobacco

The change is due to take place after Friday practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

A pan-European ban on tobacco sponsorship is due to kick in on race day (July 31) at the Hungaroring, forcing those teams featuring cigarette branding to change their colour schemes for the Sunday.

However, sources have told Autosport-Atlas that McLaren are planning to make their change a day early. It is understood that the team will run with full West branding during Friday practice in Hungary before dropping the logos of them and other major sponsor Johnnie Walker for Saturday.

The team are then expected to switch to Johnnie Walker branding from race day at Hungary in what could be the colour scheme the team plan to run with for the remainder of 2005.

Although McLaren have clearly made their plans for the impending tobacco ban, other teams do not appear to be as set in their plans and are considering the option of running with tobacco sponsorship for those events outside of the EU.

Neil England, commercial director for the Gallaher Group which backs the Jordan team with its Benson & Hedges brand, told the International Herald and Tribune: "We are all really waiting to see, everyone's watching everybody else."

The situation for teams is complicated by the fact that Britain's Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act, which also comes into effect on July 31, theoretically makes it illegal for British teams to run with tobacco sponsorship outside of the EU - because television images can be broadcast back into the UK.

England added: "As a UK-based tobacco company, together with British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco, we are seeking clarity on the UK regulations in order to determine whether we are able to brand and thus able to continue in the sport."

Ferrari are also expected to continue with their Marlboro sponsorship - even if the company's logos cannot continue to feature on their cars at certain races.

"Our position is very simple," said spokesman Luca Colajanni. "As usual we will respect the laws each country foresees regarding tobacco advertising.

"To know what will happen, the best thing you can do is to check the laws in each country and understand when the EU directive will be transformed into law."

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