Ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Mercedes announced a new deal with international firm Kingspan, whose logos now appear on the nose section of the W12 car.
But with Kingspan’s involvement in the 2017 Grenfell Tower disaster, which claimed the lives of 72 people, still under scrutiny amid an ongoing public enquiry, there has been a backlash from those affected by the tragedy.
Well aware that Kingspan’s K15 insulation was one of the products installed on the side of the tower, the pressure group Grenfell United, made up of survivors and bereaved families, wrote to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff urging him to reconsider the deal.
Wolff wrote back to them and said that, while remaining committed to the Kingspan sponsorship, he was prepared to meet those affected by the tragedy to understand more.
Now, Michael Gove MP, who is Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has also stepped in and urged Mercedes and Wolff to think again.
In a letter to Wolff, which Gove published on Twitter, he made it clear how disappointed he was with Mercedes’ decision to go ahead with the deal.
“The Grenfell bereaved, survivors and wider community have been failed in the past by both the state and the private sector. They are right to feel deeply hurt and aggrieved by your decision to sign this sponsorship deal whilst the public inquiry continues,” he wrote.
Then Gove warned that the Kingspan situation could be enough to prompt the UK government to change the jurisdiction it has over advertising and sponsorship in sport.
While current limitations mainly involve products related to tobacco, alcohol and gambling, Gove said he could not rule out the government stepping in to prevent deals like the Mercedes/Kingspan one being allowed.
“As Secretary of State, the planning controls for outdoor advertising spaces in England are a statutory responsibility that falls to me,” he wrote.
“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.”
Gove said that he also sent a copy of the letter to F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and Nadine Dorries MP, Secretary of Sporting for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.