Apology: Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff
Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) - Mercedes Formula One chief Toto Wolff on Friday apologised for “additional hurt” to families of the victims of a deadly London tower blaze after the world champions signed a sponsorship deal with a firm linked to the disaster.
British Housing Minister Michael Gove and survivors of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people, criticised the team for the deal with the Kingspan company whose branding will be visible on their cars.
The Irish company produces insulation and cladding products.
Survivors group Grenfell United said, in a posting on Twitter, that the partnership was “truly shocking”.
In an open letter to relatives, Wolff stopped short of saying Mercedes would review the deal but apologised for any upset caused by the link-up.
“The tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire was beyond imaginable to me, and it should never have happened,” he wrote.
“On behalf of our team, I would sincerely like to apologise to you for the additional hurt that this announcement has caused. It was never our intention to do so.”
Gove said on Twitter he was “deeply disappointed” that Mercedes were taking sponsorship from Kingspan while an inquiry was on-going.
He said: “I will be writing to Mercedes to ask them to reconsider. The Grenfell community deserves better.”
Wolff insisted that Mercedes had carried out a full audit of Kingspan before penning the deal and has also offered to meet families of the bereaved.
“The work of the public inquiry to establish the full causes of the tragedy is crucially important,” he added.
“Prior to concluding our partnership, we engaged with Kingspan in depth to understand what role their products played in what happened at Grenfell.
“Kingspan have stated that they played no role in the design or construction of the cladding system on Grenfell Tower, and that a small percentage of their product was used as a substitute without their knowledge in part of the system which was not compliant with building regulations and was unsafe.”
Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton will race in support of human rights and the LGBTQ+ community this weekend by wearing a rainbow-coloured helmet at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
The seven-time world champion has said he felt uncomfortable taking part in the potentially-decisive event at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, having made clear his opposition to “terrifying” laws that make same-sex relations illegal.
He wore his rainbow and coloured chevrons helmet on his way to victory last month in Qatar and plans to do so again at next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Grenfell reaction came after Hamilton had made clear his views on human rights in Saudi Arabia.
“As I said at the last race, I felt the sport was duty-bound to ensure we try and raise awareness for certain issues, especially human rights in the countries we are going to,” said Hamilton.
“With the utmost respect for everyone that is here, I have had a warmth and respect from everyone here on the ground.
“I can’t pretend to ever be the most knowledgeable or have the deepest understanding of anyone who has grown up in the community here.
“You saw my helmet in the last race and I will wear it again here and in the next race. If anyone wants to take time to read what the law is for the LGBT+ community, it is pretty terrifying.”