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GP Week : Issue 80
GPWEEK OPINION >> -life' engine? registered as Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro and where the Marlboro stickers used to be, there are rectangle-shaped red white and black 'bar codes'. The colours and layering are very reminiscent of Marlboro's logo. It looks like a Marlboro logo blurred by speed. Don Elgie, chief executive of Creston, which owns the advertising agency DLKW, says he thinks that the bar code constitutes subliminal advertising. John Britton, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and director of its tobacco advisory group, said: "The bar code looks like the bottom half of a packet of Marlboro cigarettes. I was stunned when I saw it. This is pushing at the limits. If you look at how the bar code has evolved over the last four years, it looks like creeping branding." Gerard Hastings, director of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research, said: "I think this is advertising. Why a bar code? What is their explanation?" Ferrari argue these allegations have no scientific basis, and have yet to be published in academic journals. They say Ferrari owns the bar code copyright, not PM. They say PM's investment is in return for factory visits and the like. PM are known to own space on the Ferrari which is then sold to other commercial partners, but to pay more than a few million in return for factory visits, driver appearances, naming rights and merchandise seems a stretch. PM claim their relationship with Ferrari doesn't violate the UK 2002 Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act, which prohibits tobacco advertising and sponsorship. The Ferrari-PM deal is up for renewal next year. If it continues, big questions will be asked of Formula One. It is hard for Ferrari to argue with any credibility that the bar code doesn't symbolize a Marlboro logo. John Britton has written to the Director General of the BBC about the ethics of broadcasting bar-coded Ferraris. These days F1 runs off TV, not cigarettes, and if the broadcasters are put under pressure, then Ferrari will be put under pressure. Given a growing lack of tolerance to smoking culture, does remaining a tobacco advertising vehicle bring F1 in to disrepute? One could definitely argue that. It makes you wonder why, unless they're getting a kickback, Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA haven't laid down the law. rari smokescreen In this way, Dovizioso for example was to test different engine specs on the day after the Jerez race, one of just three post- race test days this year. He can defer until the last possible moment his decision as to which one he will commit to. But he had better get the decision right, because he will be stuck with it for the next six races or so. Another fear is of what will come at the end of the year. Will it be possible that a rider might lose the championship because he has to conserve a knackered engine for the last three rounds? Of course it is. This is not motor sport as we know it. The regulation has introduced a new and rather alarming dimension. Or at least changed the old dimensions beyond recognition. It used to be said that the best racing engine is one that gives everything up to the chequered flag ... and then blows up terminally after the rider has crossed the line. In this way, you get every scrap of power it can make. Now the best engine is one that lasts until the end of the season, and only blows up after the chequered flag at the final round in Valencia. Another change came at Jerez: the penalty for infringement was at first having to start from pit lane, 20 seconds after the rest. That has been halved to ten seconds. Rossi was once penalised by ten seconds for passing under a yellow flag in Australia. He won the race anyway. If you fit a superfast engine, it might even be worth it. Look after it Jorge -- they're in short supply! 19