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  Friday, 14 February, 2003, 07:45 GMT
F1 poised for tobacco U-turn
Half the F1 teams use tobacco sponsors
F1 teams are heavily reliant on tobacco money
Formula One may make a U-turn on its plans to outlaw tobacco advertising in 2006, the sport's boss Max Mosley has admitted for the first time.

Mosley - the president of the sport's governing body, the FIA - blamed the European Union's move to bring forward its ban on tobacco advertising by a year to October 2005.

And he said that the decision could result in there being only a handful of F1 Grands Prix in Europe in future.

Mosley has for some years promised that motorsport would introduce its own tobacco advertising ban at the end of 2006.

Max Mosley, FIA president
Talk about shooting yourself in the foot, the EU has blown its legs off

Max Mosley
FIA president
He was backing the World Health Organisation's move for a worldwide ban to be introduced in international law for that time.

But he said the EU's decision to bring forward its ban had undermined the plans and thrown F1 back into the arms of the tobacco companies.

Mosley said introducing the earlier ban was counter-productive and an "incredible piece of stupidity by the European Commission".

He added: "Instead of having a worldwide ban in 2006, which everyone had accepted was going to happen, we're now virtually certain to see tobacco sponsorship in F1 going on until all of us have lost interest.

"Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. They've blown their legs off."

Mosley said the EU ban could lead to pressure from teams for the FIA to continue with tobacco because the teams' contracts run to the end of 2006.

Austria is a casualty of F1's battle to keep tobacco advertising until 2006
The Austrian GP will be dropped after 2003
"We've now got the teams with contracts to 2006 and an EU ban from July 2005.

"... The only way they (the teams) can observe those contracts in 2006 is to reduce the number of Grands Prix in the EU to a point where the tobacco companies don't object."

The Belgian Grand Prix has been dropped this year and Austria will follow next year.

China and Bahrain are scheduled to come in for 2004 with future races possible in Turkey and Russia.

India, Egypt, Mexico and another race in the United States are also being discussed as possible venues.

"We're only going to have six (races) in the EU by 2005, so you get rid of two or three more of those and you are alright with the tobacco for 2006," said Mosley.

Mosley said the EU ban was a waste of time, because tobacco advertising would be beamed into Europe on television from the races where tobacco advertising is allowed.

See also:

13 Feb 03 | Formula One
10 Feb 03 | Formula One
30 Jan 03 | Formula One
13 Dec 02 | Formula One
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