Smoking & Drinking In F1: Do Mumms Always Know Best?

Smoking & Drinking In F1: Do Mumms Always Know Best?

I’ve noticed, like a few others, that Formula One has been ramping up several key messages recently; Racing Against Racism, Going Green and various Drink Responsibly campaigns. With tobacco sponsorship now pretty much outlawed (Ferrari are still sponsored by Philip Morris, but they will no longer display the logo, at all), it seems as though alcohol has clinched a few spots on the cars in replace. But is this any better than promoting smoking? And to take it that little bit further, should the drivers be be taking a swig of champagne on the podium?

In this day and age, and certainly in the UK, drinking and driving is becoming very much a big no-no. While there have been laws in place relating to the amount of alcohol you may have in your body while driving for along time now, it has taken a little longer for it to pass down to a social level. However, as time progresses it is slowly becoming socially unacceptable to drink while driving, and is something I’m sure the government is very pleased about.

The problem arises though when, albeit in a different situation, car-owners the world over tune in to watch a grand prix and see the cars adorned with Johnnie Walker and Martini logos. This is further pushed when on the podium, the top three finishers (Bahrain aside) are seen spraying and drinking Mumm champagne. It is, of course, a very different message to drinking and driving, the consumption taking place after driving and in small quantities. But alcohol is there though, at the tracks, on the cars and around the drivers. Is this really any better than seeing ‘Marlboro’ written on the engine cover of a Ferrari?

Smoking was banned in the pit lane and paddock areas many years ago, much to the annoyance of Peter Sauber who used to enjoy his cigars, and Flavio Briatore who eventually quit the cigarettes. But drinking alcohol is socially acceptable at the circuits, and the paddock area goes through an awful lot of champagne over the course of a Formula One grand prix weekend.

The only circuit on the championship calendar to not have champagne on the podium is Bahrain. The reason is that the Kingdom of Bahrain is mostly Islamic, and therefore alcohol is prohibited. Instead, the podium celebrations are helped along with a mix of locally grown fruit (pomegranate and trinj) combined with rosewater instead. And the celebrations on the Bahraini podium look to be just as joyful as anywhere else the circus travels to.

I think the thing that causes concern in my head is that those invited into the paddock are typically the type of people who might possibly drink and drive. These folk, like thousands others around the world, are celebrating something, having a bit of a party and generally enjoying themselves at the weekend. Many of the paddock-dwellers will have drivers, or even pilots, but the message is still there: Alcohol and motor sport go together.

Isn’t it time, along with the tobacco ban, that alcohol should also be banned from the podium and cars? I don’t think you’d be able to enforce a ban on the fans who line the circuits, but by removing the name ‘Fosters’ from the sides of the circuits certainly cannot do any harm.


  • Go to a football match in Britain and you can’t have a beer because they can’t trust the fans not to start killing each other. It would be a shame if the same freedom were taken away from F1 fans.

    Alcohol advertising on cars doesn’t bother me personally but if I worked for Diageo or whoever I’m not sure I’d consider advertising on vehicles a very good way of getting my message across, given how careful they have to be about marketing themselves responsibly.

  • A fair point Keith, I remember going to Wembley last year (to see Muse perform, not football) and noticing the signs saying alcohol is not prohibited for matches. It was okay for music performances I think (I’m sure I bought an overpriced bottle of low-quality beer), just not for football.

    I didn’t consider the freedom for the fans, but also said that banning alcohol around other parts of the circuits difficult to police. But for the parts of the circuit on television (track and podium), I feel the time has come to remove the alcohol advertising. I also believe the UK government is looking into banning alcohol advertising on TV and billboards, just as they did with tobacco.

    I actually didn’t see the point in banning tobacco advertising in F1, and therefore the point in banning alcohol is also pointless in my mind. But as tobacco advertising is already banned, surely alcohol should be as well. Especially given that drinking and driving is more dangerous than smoking and driving. And Formula One is about, well, driving.

  • I wrote a post about this a week or so ago.

    While I don’t really feel that advertising either cigarettes or alcohol necessarily means I’m going to rush out and buy those things, I can understand the reasoning behind banning it – and as you say, if cigarette advertising has been banned then there’s no logic behind not banning alcohol as well.

    Then we will no doubt move onto betting and no doubt fuel companies will get hit with all the global warming stuff, until there’s not much left to put on the cars at all!

  • Alcohol can be used in moderation and is not necessarily harmful or dangerous. You can’t say the same thing about smoking.

  • No, indeed alcohol can have beneficial effects on a persons health if taken in correct quantities over a correct time period. I’m no expert but that is what I’ve been led to believe anyway.

    But while driving, which is the point I was trying to make in the post, drinking is definitely more dangerous due to the immediate effects it has on the body, which aren’t great when in control of a car.

    By the way, without wanting to deviate too much away from the subject of advertising, I read somewhere (therefore, take a pinch of salt right now) that the human body is perfectly able to deal with one regular cigarette every couple of days. While taking in such a varied amount of chemicals doesn’t do the body any good whatsoever, in very small doses it is little worse than living in a congested city centre. Which should probably read “living in a congested city centre is just as bad as…”

  • Interesting post Oliver, Ive enjoyed reading the site lately, thanks to the varied topics compared to the other sites.

    Maybe one day in the not-so-distant future, we will see the back of alcohol advertising and champers on the podium, after all they did away with the laurel wreaths over the drivers head (which correct me if im wrong, were still part of podium ceremony as recently as the early 80s) and as far as Im aware they didnt harm anyone’s health!

  • Just a bit of a note on the issue of smoking a cigarette every couple of days…nicotine is a highly addictive substance…and perhaps the body could physically clear the damage of the various chemicals, the chances are incredibly high that the rate of smoking would not stay one every couple of days. Lots of controversy, too, over whether the manufacturers manipulate the nicotine levels to make the cigarettes even more addictive.

  • @Domferrari: Thank you very kindly. I appreciate your kind words. I have no idea about the laurel wreaths, but of course, traditionally they are presented to victors in sport. Doesn’t this go back to sports in ancient Greece or Rome, or is that just my romantic side coming out? Why on earth would they be removed? Do they symbolise something unsavoury?

    @Kathryn: Good to see you around again so soon. πŸ™‚ Of course, cigarettes are generally considered a lot more addictive than alcohol (and just generally addictive) – this is where they are so damaging.

  • the first step could be banning the bad beer from F1 tracks πŸ™‚

    now joking aside, I am sure one day the alcohol advertising will disapear from race tracks and other sports arenas it is only matter of time same as it was with cigatrettes

    I however do not believe that there is any force that can remove beer and champagne from paddock. that will not happen. people are invited to Paddock to be entertained and have fun, and alcohol is part of it (whether it is right or wrong is another debate). for Paddock and for the general crowd too the F1 weekend is a party time and it should stay that way. enough we often have to put up with boring races, I do not want to put up with boring race weekends too …

    we need to drink something at the races and if I am presented with choice of sugar/chemical cocktail called CocaCola or beer, I sure will go for the healthier stuff …

  • Ive done a little more research and one formula 1 site states that the most recent race at which laurels were presented, at least to that author’s knowledge, was the 1985 Italian Grand Prix, won by Alain Prost.

    The site rightly points out that the reason for phasing them out was probably money, the leaves were cheap but obscured sponsors’ logos!

  • Thanks, Oliver…my intent is to write well thought out insightful comments on F1 and racing, but that seems not to happen very often. I enjoy your blog…so as long as you don’t ban me for quirky comments I’m happy to pipe up every so often.

  • I have read a few articles over the years about the disapearance of laurel wreaths and the reason given has always been that they covered sponsors logos.

    My only objection to alcohol being involved in F1 (and football) is the presence of alcohol logos on merchandise sold to children.

  • I haven’t heard of Ollie needing to ban anyone yet, Kathryn, so no need to worry on that front.

    As for banning alcohol, the only way I think it would happen is religion or a very long political campaign, so apart from Bahrain and a few of the new tracks, it’s not going to happen for a good long while yet.

  • Sorry Kathryn, I missed your recent comment there. Quirky comments are fine. πŸ˜‰

    @Steven: A fair objection and something I didn’t realise actually happened.

    @Ali: Do you not think that as F1 moves into new territories similar to Bahrain (Abu Dhabi (UAE) lists Islam as the official religion) that the presence of an alternative to Champagne (or Mumm) will start a ball rolling?

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