5 Innovative Ways that F1 Teams Got Around the Tobacco Ban

For the longest time, people were under the false impression that smoking tobacco was actually good for you.

While its calming effect may help reduce stress (a lot of the longest living humans lit up until their deaths), this sole benefit has now been scientifically proven to be outweighed by a myriad of health problems that smoking causes. There is no doubt about it; smoking is BAD for you!

Unfortunately, various tobacco brands had already put Formula 1 in a stranglehold by the time the danger of smoking had become mainstream knowledge.

The likes of Marlboro, Rothmans and Camel were the title sponsors of pretty much all of the major teams.

While some countries had outright banned tobacco advertisement long before (e.g. France), F1 only began enforcing the rule regardless of location at the end of the 2006 campaign.

In this blog post, we will take a look at some of the more sneaky and clever ways in which Formula One teams have successfully bypassed the tobacco ban in recent times.

1. I think we’ve messed up our bearings…

Valder137, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Minnow outfit Zakspeed were forced to remove any reference to German tobacco brand West when F1 ventured to Hungary for the first time in 1986.

The eastern European country had a strong Soviet presence at the time, and they were particularly strict when it came to smoking regulations.

The team from Germany decided to have a bit of fun with the ruling however. Luckily, the opposite of West, East, had the same amount of letters and brought some much-needed humour to the inside of the iron curtain.

2. What was there before?

Rothmans were the main sponsors of legendary outfit Williams from 1994 to 1997.

In their final season together, they decided to keep fans guessing with their livery at certain Grand Prix.

All we saw was a flash of question marks. What was there before? Nobody knew, right? Right? ???

3. Animalistic tendencies

Jordan Grand Prix have often had a close connection with wildlife. For the 1997 season, the team unveiled a predator-like livery inspired by snakes.

At the French and British Grand Prix where tobacco advertising was banned, Jordan drew from the rest of their design and replaced “Benson and Hedges” with “Bitten & Hisses”, because that’s exactly what snakes do.

In the following season, the cars were designed with hornets in mind, so the tobacco branding was swapped out for “Buzzin’ and Hornets” at the same two races.

Even when the team let go of their wild side, they continued to avoid penalties in truly innovative ways. In 2005, they removed certain letters from Benson and Hedges to spell out “Be On Edge”. Seriously, stop showing off!

4. What’s my name?

Picasa, Flickr

Coincidentally, West were also the sponsors of McLaren throughout much of the 1990s and 2000s. However, they took a bit of a different approach to bypassing the stringent tobacco advertising ban of the time.

Since many of their drivers had short names, including Kimi, David and Pedro, the Woking team found it fitting to simply swap out the tobacco brand name for the first name of the driver sitting in the cockpit. It certainly made it a lot easier to recognise who was in the car…

5. It somehow looks alike…

British American Racing (BAR)’s title sponsor was, you guessed it, British American Tobacco.

In the early 2000s they were promoting their Lucky Strike brand of cigarettes but as mentioned previously, this was not allowed in some countries.

The Honda-powered team had to come up with a design which looked alike, but would allow them to get around the infamous ban. Why not literally put the words “Look Alike” instead?

Well, that is just what they ended up doing. And the “Luckies” on the front wing were replaced with “Lookies” to complete the transformation.

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