Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff has hinted that his team could re-evaluate its sponsorship deal with insulation firm Kingspan, amid the anger it has prompted.
The German car manufacturer announced ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix that it had signed a partnership with the international company, and Kingspan’s logos have appeared on the nose section of the W12.
However, the tie-up has triggered a wave of controversy thanks to Kingspan’s involvement in the Grenfell tower disaster that killed 72 people in 2017.
Kingspan’s insulation was one of the products that was used on the outside of the tower, and its role in the tragedy is being probed in public enquiry.
The pressure group Grenfell United, made up of survivors and bereaved family members, wrote to Wolff to express their disgust at the Kingspan sponsorship deal. He replied and said he would be willing to meet them to better understand the situation.
Futhermore, Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, wrote to Wolff warning that the British government could change advertising rules for motorsport such was its anger at the situation.
World champion Lewis Hamilton suggested after qualifying in Saudi Arabia that the Kingspan stickers could be removed from his car, as he made it clear he had had no prior knowledge of the deal being done.
Asked if that was a realistic possibility, Wolff said: “We have discussed also that with the important people, and we will reach out to Kingspan and come up with the right solution.
“There is a contractual agreement that's behind these things, and we want to just do the right thing with integrity. And that's why I don't want to further comment.”
Wolff said that the experience of the past few days had taught him some big lessons, with the scale of the backlash over the Kingspan deal appearing to have caught both him and his team out.
“There's certainly a lot of learning for me personally, and for the team,” he said. “But what I want to say is that we've initiated a dialogue with some of the community of the bereaved families and survivors of the Grenfell tragedy to just better understand the pain it's caused. And that process is just beginning.
“But we would like to wish for privacy while that's ongoing. And we are looking at it with a matter of urgency.”
Pushed on whether he regretted going ahead with the deal knowing now what the response would be, Wolff said: “We all develop and learn in our lives, and this is clearly a situation that will make me improve in the future. And my assessment, my decision making and... full stop. Everything I say more is just putting me in a situation.”