McLaren defends BAT sponsorship deal

McLaren has defended its decision to form a partnership with British American Tobacco for the 2019 Formula 1 season.

McLaren defends BAT sponsorship deal

BAT, which owned the BAR F1 team from 1999 until it morphed into Honda's works operation in the mid-2000s, appears on the 2019 McLaren via 'A Better Tomorrow' branding and has made clear it will not be promoting any tobacco products via the deal.

BAT's return to F1 sponsorship comes shortly after Phillip Morris - another tobacco company moving into new areas - increased its visual presence on Ferrari's cars via its Mission Winnow project, which has prompted an investigation in Australia. 

McLaren chief executive Zak Brown said the BAT partnership should not be seen as a 'tobacco' sponsor.

"BAT is an outstanding corporation that has a long history in motorsport," he said.

"Our partnership's one that is technology based with their newer generation products. We don't have any relationship with the tobacco side of the business.

"Their industry is one that's transforming and is technology driven. So we think there's areas where we can work with them and help them in their transformation journey around technology.

"They're a great company to be working with. The world evolves and changes daily, probably at a faster pace today than ever. Their company has changed, has moved on and is moving into new areas and they're looking to innovate.

"What took place 10, 15, 20 years ago, the world is a different place and their landscape has changed and Formula 1 is a good platform for them.

"One of the things that McLaren prides itself on in partnerships is working with leading innovative companies, and you can definitely put BAT into that category."

He denied the Mission Winnow/Phillip Morris situation and McLaren's BAT partnership were evidence of a "trend" of tobacco-related companies returning to F1.

"Phillip Morris have been with Ferrari forever and BAT has a great history in racing and they understand the power of it and as they move forward on their new journey they felt that McLaren was a partner that could help," said Brown.

Three teams have so far announced new title sponsors for 2019 - Haas with Rich Energy, Williams with ROKiT and Racing Point with SportPesa - and in each case the company is new to F1.

McLaren's new livery includes prominent branding from chocolate company Huski as well as the BAT slogan. It had some discussions with Rich Energy, as did Williams, before the firm linked up with Haas.

"We'll talk from a McLaren perspective, we want to be associated with leading companies, well recognised companies," said Brown when asked why McLaren had not gone down a similar route to others and secured a new-to-F1 brand as a title sponsor.

"We do have some brands that are on an early journey to growth. I know who some of the owners are behind them and they seem to be credible individuals just early-stage companies.

"I am happy with the set of partners we have and direction we are headed.

"We are making good progress and certainly there are some teams out there that are in different situations where they'll maybe take a deal that we would pass on.

"But everyone's got to run their own racing team how they see fit."

Additional reporting by Jonathan Noble and Scott Mitchell

McLaren MCL34 detail

McLaren MCL34 detail

Photo by: McLaren

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