Formula 1 team Ferrari has dropped tobacco giant Philip Morris’ branding (aka Marlboro) from its official name for the season-opening Grand Prix in Australia amid an investigation by authorities over a breach of regulations.
In the team entry list released by Formula 1’s ruling body FIA this week ahead of the Melbourne race in mid-March, the team name was changed from “Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow” to just “Scuderia Ferrari”.
Now it remains to be seen if the controversial chevron style logo of Mission Winnow will remain on the cars, driver suits and helmets as well as the team apparel when they break cover in Melbourne for the season opener on 17 March.
There was no immediate comment from Ferrari or Philip Morris.
Already the white Mission Winnow logo has been darkened to b;ack on the cars, but the team racewear and driver clothing remain heavily branded by the enigmatic campaign which many are accusing of being a mere smokescreen to promote their flagship brand Marlboro.
The FIA is opposed to any advertising or sponsoring of cigarettes or tobacco, but Philip Morris re-entered the sport last October through its scientific research subsidiary and branded Ferrari cars with its “Mission Winnow” logo.
The logos were featured on Ferrari livery during the Japan Grand Prix in October, sparking an investigation by Australia’s communications regulator over whether TV broadcasts of the race breached its ban on tobacco advertising.
The state government of Victoria, which is home to Melbourne city where the race is held, was likewise probing the controversial branding.
The Australian Grand Prix Corporation said in a statement Tuesday it would “work closely and productively” with F1 stakeholders and the state government “to develop an appropriate outcome” on the issue.
The lure of advertising from the tobacco industry has increased in recent years as F1 teams struggle to meet their budget requirements.