Formula One has come under attack by anti-cigarette campaigners after it emerged that teams are in fresh sponsorship negotiations with tobacco companies.
Two cigarette companies are understood to have approached a number of F1 teams, including Switzerland-based Sauber Petronas, with a view to taking up sponsorship rights for next season. A source at Sauber confirms the team has held discussions with a tobacco company, but refuses to say which.
Industry sources say these discussions prove that F1 has no intention of ending its involvement with tobacco, despite a European ban on sponsorship which comes into force next July. There are now a greater number of races in countries where tobacco sponsorship is allowed, opening the way for at least partial race branding on non-EU-based teams’ cars.
A report by the British Medical Journal earlier this month concluded that F1 had abandoned its commitment to be free of tobacco sponsorship by 2006, by establishing races in areas with fewer advertising regulations.
There is also industry speculation that British American Tobacco is now unlikely to jettison its involvement with the British American Racing team.