* Strict anti-tobacco advertising regulation prompts decision
* Follows Ferrari decision to drop Philip Morris branding (Adds BAT quote)
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE, March 14 (Reuters) - McLaren will race in Formula One’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix this week without British American Tobacco (BAT) branding on their cars amid concerns about Australia’s strict anti-tobacco advertising regulation.
The British team’s decision follows that of Ferrari to drop Philip Morris branding for their “Mission Winnow” initiative at Albert Park, citing problems with Australia’s health authorities
McLaren announced a “global partnership” with BAT last month, which included having BAT’s “A Better Tomorrow” branding on cars and drivers’ overalls. BAT said last month the branding focused on its “commitment ... to providing less risky tobacco and nicotine choices”.
A McLaren spokesman said in an email to Reuters on Thursday: “So BAT decided in advance not to brand the car or team with A Better Tomorrow but instead pass their branding rights onto Seven Eleven for this race.”
BAT said it was “mindful of the stance that the Australian government currently takes towards potentially reduced risk products.”
“Combined with the fact that we consequently don’t sell these products there, it makes sense to pass on the branding rights to one of our key business customers instead of using them ourselves,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.
Australian media reported last month that government health departments were looking into whether Ferrari’s original Philip Morris livery had broken the ban on tobacco advertising.
Ferrari replaced the Mission Winnow logo in Melbourne with a “90 years” livery, which marks the 90th anniversary of the Italian racing company established by Enzo Ferrari. (Editing by Peter Rutherford/Amlan Chakraborty)