Motor racing-Grenfell survivors urge Mercedes F1 team to end sponsorship

LONDON (Reuters) – British Housing Minister Michael Gove and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire have called for Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes Formula One team to reconsider a sponsorship deal with a firm linked to the 2017 London disaster.

Reigning champions Mercedes announced this week a partnership with Kingspan, an Irish company that produces high-performance insulation and cladding products including some used on Grenfell.

Their branding features on the car that seven-times world champion Hamilton will be driving at this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Survivors group Grenfell United said in a letter to team boss Toto Wolff published on Twitter, that the partnership announcement was “truly shocking” and urged Mercedes to end the relationship.

The Grenfell fire killed 72 people, with combustible cladding used on the residential block identified as central to the rapid spread of flames.

Gove said on Twitter he was “deeply disappointed” Mercedes were accepting sponsorship from Kingspan while an inquiry was ongoing.

“I will be writing to Mercedes to ask them to reconsider. The Grenfell community deserves better,” he said.

Gove’s opposition counterpart Lisa Nandy welcomed his “swift criticism” but called on him to take the same stance and return party political donations from property developers responsible for buildings with similar cladding.

Mercedes said the partnership was centred on sustainability and Kingspan “has supported, and continues to support, the vitally important work of the Inquiry to determine what went wrong and why in the Grenfell Tower tragedy.”

Kingspan said in a separate statement that it had played no role in the design of the cladding system on Grenfell Tower, where its K15 product constituted approximately 5% of the insulation.

It added that this “was used as a substitute product without Kingspan’s knowledge in a system that was not compliant with the buildings regulations.

“The new partnership with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team reflects the ambitious sustainability targets of both organisations.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Louise Heavens)