Brazil F1 Tobacco U-Turn: FIA Billionaires Olé El Presidente!

10 April 2003

Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, dutifully intervened to overrule his government, following the Brazilian parliament’s vote to ban all tobacco sponsorship in Latin America’s largest and most populous economy. This would have included Brazil’s upcoming Formula 1 Grand Prix event.

Lurking behind the intervention are the figures of Max Moseley and Bernie Ecclestone, two billionaires respectively heading motorsport’s governing body the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile and Formula One Management, which holds and controls the sport’s media rights under a deal granted by the FIA.

The motorsport duo performed their ritual legal protest at the sponsorship ban, while more discreetly grabbing the presidential ear – emulating their performance in 1997 with UK prime minister Blair.

Last week President da Silva obligingly trod in Blair’s footprints, using his discretionary power to enact a provisional statute tailoring the sponsorship law to fit Moseley and Ecclestone’s precise measurements.

The presidential decree suspends the anti-tobacco law until July 31 2005 insofar as it applies to “international sportive events which are not held in one single country and which are organised or promoted by foreign institutions”.

Interestingly, 2005 is also significant in that Ecclestone’s ten-year monopoly on sporting rights (and interest in tobacco sponsorship) runs out. Which could be a tad inconvenient in the light of the $1.4bn Eurobond, secured by Ecclestone on the future profits of Formula One Management.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff