Just take a look at those gorgeous F1 cars from years past. My first memories of Formula 1 go back to 1988 in the old turbocharged era, when those 1.5L V6 engines were producing an excess of 1,000 horsepower. Oh yeah… cast iron blocks, 9:1 compression ratio and so on. Sorry, I went off on a tangent there.
So what do you see when looking at all the racecars above? Sure, lots of Senna but what else? Simply, there were all sponsored by a tobacco company. Marlboro, West, Mild Seven, Camel, Rothmans and many more. And it’s in this commercial era where we’ve had some of the best racing in memory and the most radical rate of development and innovation.
Based on “health & safety” concerns, tobacco advertising was banned from Formula 1 in 2006, effective with the start of the 2007 season. it effectively halted the biggest stream of sponsorship dollars to the sport and left teams scrambling to find new title (or otherwise) sponsors.
Last year, Ferrari tried to get around this advertising ban by integrating Phillip Morris’ Mission Winnow “initiative.” Even after going through their website, I still have no effin’ clue what it is that they do. Interestingly enough, PM has never stopped being a Ferrari sponsor. They just couldn’t use any of the livery space on the car. The Australians apparently weren’t very happy about this ploy, as Ferrari has been forced to remove Mission Winnow branding from the car for the upcoming Australian GP.
Wait…! What about the other “sin product” that’s been given free reign over the years to advertise as much as they want? Johnnie Walker, Martini, Heineken, Molson, Foster’s, Labatt’s, Chandon, Singha, Kingfisher. What’s taking so damn long for the same talking heads to address banning or limiting advertising by alcohol producers? Hell, Heineken is the title sponsor for the Chinese and Italian Grands Prix in 2019. And Johnnie Walker is the title sponsor for the Belgian Grand Prix. How the hell does this make sense?
But it’s not just tobacco and alcohol companies that are “killing people.” Let’s take a look at the general records of current Formula 1 sponsors:
- Petronas (Mercedes): “catastrophic” safety issues, billions of tax payer money lost
- UBS (Mercedes): tax evasion investigations
- Shell (Ferrari): seriously bad environmental record
- Kaspersky Lab (Ferrari): spies for the Russian government
- ExxonMobil (Red Bull): ranks #2 in historic greenhouse gas emissions; and remember the Exxon Valdez that spilled 11 MILLION gallons of crude into Prince William Sound??!!
- Petrobras (McLaren): this covers oil spills just through 2001
- SportPesa (Racing Point): self explanatory; how many lives do you suppose were ruined by gambling addiction?
- Castrol (Renault Sport): yet another seriously bad environmental record; remember this little oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?
And this isn’t even the whole list! What about all those tech companies, such as Lenovo and HP, making their computers through vendors like Foxxconn… who pay their employees the equivalent of $200 US per month… indentured servitude. Suicides. These don’t count, right?
You may counter that the companies above aren’t directly killing people like cigarettes. That it’s false equivalency. On the contrary, all of these companies are doing real damage to the global society at large, directly or indirectly. Why should they be given a pass when it comes to advertising in F1? How is it okay to spill hundreds of millions of crude oil into the ocean which starts an extremely dangerous chain reaction from contaminating sea life (and birds too!), destroying ecosystems, YOU eating that contaminated seafood and eventually getting cancer.
I am NOT a fan of smoking in any shape or form. I find it disgusting. I WAS a smoker for 10 years but I quit cold turkey almost 9 years ago. It stinks and makes me sick. But it’s completely wrong for the “elites” at the WHO to determine that tobacco advertisers can’t advertise in F1, yet plenty of other industrial and consumer brands, that kill just as effectively, can go wherever and do whatever they want. It’s a farce.