Renault chief denies tobacco link to Lotus

Renault F1 chairman Gerard Lopez dismissed concern yesterday that his Lotus-backed team's new black and gold livery could fall foul of anti-tobacco legislation.

The new R31 car harks back to the 1970s and '80s when Lotus won races with the likes of Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti and Ayrton Senna with cars painted in the colours of a British tobacco brand.

The same Imperial Tobacco-owned brand is still marketed around the world now, although it no longer has any commercial links with Formula One.

That has led to suggestions, notably in the Canadian media, that Renault could be in breach of strict anti-tobacco advertising laws when they compete in the country because of the past association.

"No 1, we have no relationship with a tobacco company," Lopez said after the team launch at Valencia's Ricardo Tormo circuit. Even if we had had, there is another famous team racing around in a colour that is ... very close to a cigarette manufacturer."

Ferrari, the most successful team in Formula One, are the only outfit still sponsored by a cigarette maker, Philip Morris's Marlboro brand. There is however no branding on the car or uniforms, other than the red and white colours. "Black and gold is very simple. We just wanted something to be really classy," Lopez (above) added.

He also poured scorn on rivals Team Lotus, who are locked in a legal dispute with Group Lotus over use of the brand in Formula One. The matter is due to be heard by the London High Court in March, after the Bahrain Grand Prix.

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