Ferrari has removed the controversial "bar code" design from the side of its car from this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix following controversy about it being subliminal advertising for title sponsor Marlboro.
A report in Britain's The Times newspaper last week revealed that leading doctors were putting pressure on governments to investigate whether the red, white and black bar code that had featured on the Ferrari cars for several years was a clever way of promoting its title sponsor's cigarette brand. Ferrari reacted angrily to the claims, suggesting that the design was not copyrighted by Marlboro owner Phillip Morris and that it had chosen the concept alone. The bar code also featured on the Ducati MotoGP bikes too, though.
Earlier this week, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo labeled any claim that the design was promoting Marlboro as "nonsense."
"Frankly, I find this argument completely pointless and it is verging on the ridiculous to claim that the color red or a graphic design which shows a bar code could induce people to smoke," di Montezemolo said on Ferrari's website. "At a time when, on the other side of the Atlantic they are fighting to provide a more equal health service, in the old continent of Europe, so called experts are wracking their brains to come up with theories that have no scientific basis: I think there are more important matters to think about than a bar code. Therefore, it's best not to waste any more time replying to this sort of nonsense or to those who are instrumental in wanting to stoke up the story."
Despite that stance, Ferrari opted on Thursday to remove the bar code design from its cars immediately.
A statement issued by the team said: "Together with Philip Morris International we have decided to modify the livery of our cars starting with the Barcelona Grand Prix. This decision was taken in order to remove all speculation concerning the so-called 'bar code' which was never intended to be a reference to a tobacco brand.
"By this we want to put an end to this ridiculous story and concentrate on more important things than on such groundless allegations."