Renault's new black and gold livery might fall afoul of strict anti-tobacco advertising laws in Canada this year.
That is the claim of the Toronto based Globe and Mail newspaper, after the Enstone based team's newly Group Lotus-sponsored livery was launched officially last weekend at a racing car show in Birmingham.
The 2011 Lotus Renault GP livery is a tribute to the Lotus cars of the 70s and 80s, whose black and gold colours were to promote Imperial Tobacco's John Player Special cigarette brand.
Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar recently played down the latter fact, insisting that the 2011 Renault livery will not have any "negative implications with potential tobacco advertising".
But a Health Canada spokesperson revealed that if a F1 car did resemble a cigarette packet while racing on Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, "tobacco inspectors would need to fully review to assess whether a violation of the Tobacco Act has occurred".
An Imperial Tobacco spokesperson said: "It is categorically against the law to present any likeness to a cigarette pack.
"If I were Lotus (Renault) ... I would be concerned - I wonder if they are aware of the law in Canada."
Manager Says Hulkenberg Offered Virgin Seat
Nico Hulkenberg's manager Willi Weber has hinted strongly that the 23-year-old will have a "Friday" driving role in 2011.
"We have been thinking: shall we pause for a year?" said Weber, who has been busily scouring the driver market for a race cockpit for his German charge, who has been ousted by Williams in favour of the well-funded Pastor Maldonado.
"But in today's world you are too quickly forgotten. So I think it is better for Nico to still have a presence with a good team where at least he can practice on the Fridays.
"That is the ideal alternative for him," Weber said.
It is strongly rumoured that Hulkenberg will find his Friday role at Force India, with racers Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta to alternate sitting out the morning practices.
Weber told Auto Motor und Sport: "Before anything is said officially, I can't say anything myself."
There is a free race seat at HRT, but Weber - revealing that an offer by the Virgin team was also made - suggested that a Friday role at Force India is the best available option.
"For someone like Nico, with a season already behind him, there is little to learn from a small team.
"There was an offer from Virgin which was very pleasing, but with another German in Timo Glock, who has been there for a while already, the risk was too great," he insisted.
Weber also said he is concerned about the 'pay driver' situation in F1.
"F1 needs to be careful about creating a two-class society, with 14 real drivers and ten pay-drivers. In that way, I refuse to pay for a cockpit for Nico.
"If you do it once, you will always be needing to bring money, and more and more. Very quickly, this becomes your image. Rather, I want to sell performance.
"This boy is too good to be paying to drive," added Weber.