Mercedes’ F1 team announced on Wednesday that it has “mutually agreed” to end its partnership with a firm whose insulation was used in the Grenfell Tower before the deadly fire in London which killed 72 people in 2017.
The deal with cladding firm Kingspan was announced only last week, with the logo appearing on Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton’s and Valtteri Bottas’ cars for the race in Saudi Arabia over the weekend.
However, it was a deal that received a lot of backlash for Kingspan’s alleged ties to the insulation at Grenfell Tower.
The UK’s housing secretary, Michael Gove, said in a letter to Mercedes Formula 1 team chief executive Toto Wolff that he hoped the team would “reconsider” the commercial partnership as it “threatens to undermine all the good work the company and sport have done.”
Campaign group Grenfell United, made up of survivors and the bereaved families of the fire, said they met with Wolff to provide him and his team “the facts of Kingspan’s involvement in Grenfell” after calling for the partnership to be severed.
“Announced last week, the new partnership included Kingspan chairing a new Sustainability Working Group for the team and aimed to deliver carbon reductions through their leading-edge environmentally sustainable solutions for the team’s future campus,” Mercedes said on Twitter.
“However, both parties have subsequently concluded that it is not appropriate for the partnership to move forward at the current point in time, notwithstanding its intended positive impact, and we have therefore agreed that it will be discontinued with immediate effect.”
In a statement released on Wednesday, Kingspan said: “We are deeply aware of the sensitivities raised in recent days, and so we have jointly agreed that it’s not appropriate to move forward at the current point in time.”
Grenfell United said it was “pleased to hear” the news of the termination of the deal with Kingspan.
Kingspan added it had “no role in the Grenfell Tower refurbishment,” while also acknowledging that the “Kingspan Insulation UK business is a core participant in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.”
In Gove’s letter to Wolff, he said Kingspan manufactured K15 insulation that was used in Grenfell Tower and that testimony from Kingspan employees in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry found that they knew their “products were more combustible than they were advertising them to be.”
“In written and verbal testimony, former Kingspan staff have accepted that their approach to certification of the materials was ‘fundamentally misleading,’” Gove says, “and that they definitely knew that it was more combustible than they portrayed; and that their approach was ‘to get away with as much as possible.’”
In its Wednesday statement, Kingspan said it understood it is a “complex topic.”
“We did not make the exterior cladding on Grenfell Tower,” the company said. “The Inquiry itself has stated that ‘the principal reason’ for rapid fire spread on Grenfell was the Polyethylene cored ACM cladding used on the exterior of the building. No façade system using this PE ACM cladding, regardless of the insulation used, would have passed the necessary large-scale system fire test. Our K15 insulation board was misused in this unsafe and non-compliant system.
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“We did not supply or recommend K15 to Grenfell Tower. K15 made up approximately 5% of the insulation layer of the façade system. It was substituted without our knowledge.
“We have completed new tests which support the previous fire safety claims of the three historical K15 large-scale system tests which came into question during the Inquiry process.”
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry is ongoing.
Editor’s note: This article has been amended to more clearly state the use of Kingspan’s insulation in the Grenfell Tower.