Ferrari has reacted angrily to reports claiming its Formula One livery is a subliminal form of advertising for its title sponsor Marlboro.
The tobacco company, owned by Philip Morris International, has a long association with the team and has retained its involvement until 2011 despite the advertising of tobacco products being banned from many countries F1 currently visits.
A report in The Times last week claimed leading health officials had called on British and Spanish governments to investigate the extent of Marlboro's involvement with Ferrari, how prominent the Marlboro-mimicking 'barcode' logo was on Ferrari's cars and whether the barcode was a form of subliminal advertising.
"These reports are based on two suppositions: that part of the graphics featured on the Formula 1 cars are reminiscent of the Marlboro logo and even that the red colour which is a traditional feature of our cars is a form of tobacco publicity," said a Ferrari statement posted on its official website.
"Neither of these arguments have any scientific basis, as they rely on some alleged studies which have never been published in academic journals. But more importantly, they do not correspond to the truth.
"The so called barcode is an integral part of the livery of the car and of all images coordinated by the Scuderia, as can be seen from the fact it is modified every year and, occasionally even during the season. Furthermore, if it was a case of advertising branding, Philip Morris would have to own a legal copyright on it."