Kingspan found themselves at the centre of a storm of protest over the weekend as their sponsorship with F1 team Mercedes came under stinging criticism from politicians at Westminster.
The Irish owned and based company has naming rights and strong partnerships here with Ulster rugby and Cavan GAA but this major step up into the high finance and high profile world of F1 has had a stinging backlash.
At the centre of the problem is the fact that a small proportion of the cladding insulation on Grenfell Tower in London, which burned in June 2017 claiming 72 lives, was made by the company.
It clarified its evidence to the ongoing UK enquiry into the tragedy that the material only represented five per cent of what had been used and was done so without its knowledge.
British Communities Minister Michael Gove though led the protest calling on Mercedes to terminate the deal. A survivors group said that it was “truly shocking.”
Mercedes Team boss Toto Wolff has agreed to meet the survivors’ group and apologised for the additional hurt the announcement had caused.
“Our partner 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,” said a statement from the team.
“Our new partnership announced this week is centred on sustainability and will support us in achieving our targets in this area.”
Discussions are now understood to be underway between the two companies to see whether the logo will remain on the car for next weekend’s conclusion to the season in Abu Dhabi. The team’s number one driver and potential eighth time World Champion Lewis Hamilton has distanced himself from the deal, saying it was a commercial relationship between the team and the brand but added that he believed it was ‘being sorted out.’
As part of the deal, Kingspan is supposed to be chairing a Sustainability Working Group for the team. The working group’s remit will be to explore new approaches and technologies for emissions reduction in motorsport.
Whether the relationship survives the glare of such negative publicity as has been shone upon it over the weekend is open to question but a decision is likely in the coming days, either to pull it entirely or perhaps to remove the logo for Sunday’s race and maybe even until the conclusion of the enquiry but to maintain the connection behind the scenes.
We will be watching closely.
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