Motorsport bosses are warning that the European Union’s decision to bring forward curbs on tobacco sponsorship could drive Formula One racing from the continent and destroy the sport’s voluntary ban.

Following a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council, Max Mosley, president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), wrote to European health commissioner David Byrne expressing his dismay that the ban on tobacco sponsorship will be implemented in July 2005, not October 2006 as previously proposed.

The latter date is when F1 had agreed to phase out tobacco sponsorship around the world – a decision that may be reversed as a result.

“As a result of [the original] legislation, the FIA advised teams with tobacco sponsorship not to enter into contracts beyond 2006,” the letter explained. “By choosing a date earlier than the world date, the EU will now force teams to seek events outside the EU during part of 2005 and all of 2006 in order to observe contracts which do not expire until the end of 2006.”

The consequences may stretch even further. “Such [new non-EU] events will inevitably themselves seek long-term contracts and, of course, allow tobacco sponsorship,” continued the letter. “Quite obviously, the probable consequence is that the tobacco contracts which currently expire in 2006 will soon be extended beyond that date.”

The FIA hopes the threat of fewer races in the continent and prolonged tobacco sponsorship being beamed into Europe from outside will spur the EU into a change of heart.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff