DECEMBER 7, 2000
Is the Brazilian GP really under threat?
WHILE the Brazilian Congress debates the future of tobacco advertising in the country and there are warnings from motorsport people in Brazil that the Grand Prix could be threatened if the new law is voted through, which seems to be the most likely outcome at the moment.
There have been calls for the legislation to make an exception for motor racing using the same argument that has applied in many other countries that it is a "world-class" event and Brazil would not get the race if tobacco advertising was banned.
However, a new law might not have any effect on the Grand Prix because the FIA is already committed to phasing out cigarette money and the trend amongst the F1 teams is to move to alternative sources of income. At the same time the Brazilian race is of vital importance to the sport as it keeps the South American interest in the World Championship alive. Brazil is a vast market for the F1 sponsors and they will not be happy if F1 turns its back on Latin America. There is no real alternative to Brazil at the moment because Argentina cannot afford a Grand Prix and all the other countries are either politically or economically unstable or simply too small to consider hosting a Grand Prix. With Juan Pablo Montoya a rising star in the sport one could argue that F1 might go to Colombia but it is hard to imagine that Bernie Ecclestone will want to associate the sport with a country which is known throughout the world for its cocaine industry.
In all probability, therefore, the Brazilians can vote through a tobacco ban without fear of losing the Grand Prix although it may make life difficult for the race organizers. The Brazilian event is one of only handful at which the trackside advertising and corporate entertaining is not under the control of Paddy McNally's Allsport Management so it will be the locals who have to pay if tobacco money is blocked.
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