The Renault team’s new black-and-gold tribute livery could spell trouble when the Formula 1 circus venture to North America mid-year for the Canadian Grand Prix, where Canada’s strict Tobacco Act may force an alternative paint scheme.Health Canada could argue that Renault's 2010 livery is a breach of the Tobacco Act

While the resurrection of the famous John Player Special colour scheme reminiscent of the 1970s and 1980s Lotus days, simply decking out a race car in colours that bear even the faintest resemblance to a cigarette packet could be in contravention of the regulations, even if the team has no link to any tobacco sponsorship.

And while the team might be attempting to honour the memory of the iconic Team Lotus days – although we will again stress that it has absolutely no relationship to the team founded by Colin Chapman other than in the name of the team’s title sponsor – this is of no interest to Canada’s health department.

A report in Canada’s The Globe and Mail has said that Health Canada inspectors “would need to fully review to assess whether a violation of the Tobacco Act has occurred”, should Renault run this livery when the circus hits Montreal, according to a spokesperson from the organisation.

“The Tobacco Act prohibits the promotion of tobacco products or tobacco product-related brand elements in Canada, except as authorized by the Act or regulations. Tobacco product sponsorship is prohibited entirely and tobacco advertising is severely restricted,” the added.

The Act defines the term ‘promotion’ as: “a representation about a product or service by any means, whether directly or indirectly, including any communication of information about a product or service and its price and distribution, that is likely to influence and shape attitudes, beliefs and behaviours about the product or service.”

Therefore, it could lodge a case that Renault’s livery scheme would bear enough resemblance to the iconic JPS colour scheme used when tobacco sponsorship in F1 was completely legal.

The laws are so strict that even Imperial Tobacco cannot use the black-and-gold colour scheme on its own website in Canada.

The JPS sponsorship of the former Team Lotus outfit dated back to 1972
JPS’ sponsorship of the Colin Chapman-founded Lotus outfit started in 1972 and ran until 1976 

“[The Act] is categorically against the law to present any likeness to a cigarette pack,” a spokesperson for the cigarette company told the newspaper, while adding that it cannot be implicated in any action by Health Canada as it has no commercial tie-ins with the Renault F1 team.

“If I were Lotus though, I would be concerned — I wonder if they are aware of the law in Canada,” they added.

The teams had to run without their tobacco liveries at the 2004 Canadian GP The strict anti-tobacco legislation almost forced the cancellation of the 2004 Canadian Grand Prix – in the era before the near-complete ban on tobacco advertising – which only went ahead when race organisers had to stump up nearly $30 million to compensate the five teams who lost tobacco sponsorship revenue by being forced to use non-tobacco liveries (pictured) that weekend.

The Renault F1 team showed off its new livery on a 2010 show car at last week’s AUTOSPORT International Show, and will officially launch is 2011 championship challenger on January 31, just a day before pre-season testing gets underway.

Under the sport’s rules, a team must run in the same fundamental livery scheme for the entire season, and can only display a heavily revised livery scheme with approval from key figures within the sport.

Ferrari was forced opted to remove the barcode logo from its 2010 livery after it was accused of running subliminal cigarette advertising for its title sponsor, Marlboro cigarettes.

[Original images via AUTOSPORT and The Cahier Archive]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.