MAY 11, 2004
Marlboro staying with Ferrari beyond 2006?
Ferrari boss Jean Todt says that Marlboro will be in Formula 1 for "many more years" yet. The tobacco brand, which is owned by the giant tobacco company Altria (formerly known at Philip Morris) has been involved in Grand Prix racing since 1972 when the company signed a sponsorship deal worth $500,000 with the BRM team. That deal lasted three years and towards the end the company decided to become involved with Frank Williams's Iso team as well. But in 1974 Marlboro agreed a new sponsorship deal with McLaren, starting a relationship which continued until 1996. There were many other side deals with drivers and even teams, notably with Alfa Romeo in the early 1980s and from the mid-1970s onwards a relationship with Ferrari which grew every year. Marlboro became the Ferrari title sponsor in 1997 and in 2001 announced a deal which would take the partnership until the end of 2006. It was thought that the firm would then withdraw but, according to Todt, Ferrari will "move the partnership forward as much as we can''.
European legislation is not going to help and from the end of July next year, cigarette advertising is banned throughout the European Union. Todt says that some change will be necessary but says that tobacco will not be leaving the sport.
It is worth noting that Altria has a deal with Ferrari which enables it to subcontract the space on the car to other sponsors, notably Vodafone, so even if the Marlboro wording has to come off the cars, the red and white colour scheme will remain.
Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone last weekend hinted that he wants to do more deals with European nations.
"I hope we can get this sorted out so we don't have to keep disappearing out of Europe," he said. "It is the last thing we want."
Ecclestone added that it was "silly" that Formula 1 should not be given a few days of dispensation each year in each country. He said that all the European contracts are now conditional on tobacco legislation".
Ecclestone also suggested an alternative for the anti-smoking campaigners.
"If tobacco advertising is so powerful that it makes people start smoking when they see a sign, we should put up another sign saying "If you smoke you'll die"." Thus far, however, the anti-smoking lobby has not played much of a role in F1 funding.
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