FIA responds to EU criticism over Belgian GP

The FIA yesterday hit back at EU Health Commissioner David Byrne, following his statement criticising the decision to remove the Belgian GP from the 2003 F1 calendar. Byrne had asked: "Is the tainted money of big tobacco more important to the F1 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?"

FIA responds to EU criticism over Belgian GP

The FIA statement read:

"The decision arises from the need to comply simultaneously with Belgian law and with the Formula 1 teams' 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 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. The FIA has pledged to comply with the date set by the World Health Organisation for a global ban on tobacco advertising from October 1, 2006.

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