BARCELONA Ferrari removed a controversial bar code livery from their Formula One cars on Thursday after suggestions that it represented subliminal advertising for cigarette sponsor Marlboro.
"Together with Philip Morris International we have decided to modify the livery of our cars starting with the Barcelona Grand Prix," the sport's most successful team said in a statement at the Spanish race.
"This decision was taken in order to remove all speculation concerning the so-called "bar code" which was never intended to be associated 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."
Ferrari, who compete under the official name of Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, are the only team still sponsored by a tobacco company.
While the Marlboro branding does not appear on the car, recent media reports have suggested the prominent bar code design could be in breach of strict European Union laws banning tobacco advertising because it resembled the lower part of a packet of cigarettes.
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo hit out at the criticism earlier in the week.
"Frankly, I find this argument completely pointless and it is verging on the ridiculous to claim that the colour red or a graphic design which shows a bar code could induce people to smoke," he told the Ferrari website (www.ferrari.com).
"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 racking their brains to come up with theories that have no scientific basis," added the Italian.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)