Pressure grows on Mercedes from UK government over new partner

Mercedes is coming under increasing pressure from the United Kingdom government for agreeing to a sponsorship deal with a company under scrutiny for its part in the Grenfell disaster.

There were 72 people that lost their lives when the Grenfell tower block caught fire in West London in 2017, with Kingspan supplying some of the cladding that was deemed responsible for the rapid spread of the fire. An ongoing public inquiry has accused Kingspan of ignoring fire safety test results, leading to significant criticism of Mercedes after it announced a “global sustainability partnership” with the company and ran Kingspan logos on the car in this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The rhetoric was increased when UK government minister Michael Gove wrote an open letter to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff – copying in F1 president Stefano Domenicali – warning that sponsorships in F1 could come under greater scrutiny if the team doesn’t terminate its deal.

“The Grenfell bereaved, survivors and wider community have been failed in the past by both the state and the private sector,” Gove wrote. “They are right to feel deeply hurt and aggrieved by your decision to sign this sponsorship deal whilst the public inquiry continues.

“It is important to note that as Secretary of State, the planning controls for outdoor advertising spaces in England are a statutory responsibility that falls to me.

“Currently, broadly speaking, adverts displayed on enclosed land, such as within sports stadia, or those displayed on vehicles, are excluded from direct control of the relevant authorities. My cabinet colleagues and I will keep this system under constant and close review to ensure that the advertising regime remains fit for purpose and reflects the public interest.

“I am conscious that there are very real questions about whether Parliament would support a statutory regime that enabled a core participant in a public enquiry in to how 72 people lost their lives to advertise its products publicly to millions of families across the country.

“The achievements of Mercedes and Sir Lewis Hamilton in recent years represent a British success story of which we are all proud. I hope you will reconsider this commercial partnership, which threatens to undermine all the good work the company and the sport have done.”

Wolff had previously responded to a letter from survivors’ group Grenfell United asking him to terminate the deal, to which he replied he was keen to meet the group to understand more but defended the Kingspan partnership.