- 72 people died when a fire ripped through Grenfell Tower, a residential block in London, in 2017.
- Kingspan, a company whose materials were used in Grenfell, is now sponsoring the Mercedes F1 team.
- The UK’s housing minister and a Grenfell survivors’ group slammed Mercedes F1 for the deal.
The Mercedes Formula One team is coming under sharp criticism from both the UK government and survivors’ groups after it signed a sponsorship deal with a company whose materials were used in Grenfell Tower, a London apartment block that was devastated by a fire that killed 72 people.
Grenfell, in west London, burned down in June 2017. The fire that engulfed the building killed 72 people and injured 70 more.
The fire was, and still is, a flashpoint for tensions in the UK around the safety of high-rise buildings. The cladding and insulation used on those buildings have come under particular scrutiny.
This week, Mercedes, the leading team in the highest level of motorsport, unveiled a new partnership with Kingspan, an Irish building-materials firm.
Kingspan made some elements of the insulation used during a refurbishment of Grenfell before the fire, the BBC reported.
In a Thursday statement to The Guardian, Kingspan said those elements made up just 5% of the insulation of the building, and that they were used without the company’s knowing. It also said it “played no role in the design” of the cladding blamed for accelerating the fire at Grenfell.
Almost as soon as the deal was announced, both Kingspan and Mercedes faced scrutiny, with the UK housing minister Michael Gove tweeting his disapproval.
“Deeply disappointed that Mercedes AMG F1 are accepting sponsorship from cladding firm Kingspan while the Grenfell Inquiry is ongoing,” Gove said.
“I will be writing to Mercedes to ask them to reconsider. The Grenfell community deserves better.”
—Michael Gove (@michaelgove) December 2, 2021
Grenfell United, a group for survivors of the disaster, also condemned the move, describing it as “truly shocking.”
“Kingspan played a central role in inflicting the pain and suffering that we feel today, and there must be a degree of public censure for Kingspan’s recklessness and carelessness for human life,” the group said in a letter to Mercedes F1 CEO Toto Wolff.
The Kingspan logo is set to appear on the nose of the Mercedes car at the Saudi Grand Prix this weekend.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes’ lead driver, though not directly involved in the team’s sponsorships, has been implored by some to condemn the Kingspan deal. Hamilton has previously shown his support for Grenfell survivors, sharing a tribute to the tragedy on his Instagram page last June.
Kelvin Mackenzie, a former editor of the The Sun, said that Hamilton should “refuse to sit in the car” while it features Kingspan branding.
—Grenfell United (@GrenfellUnited) December 2, 2021
In a statement cited by the BBC, Mercedes F1 said: “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.
“Our new partnership announced this week is centered on sustainability and will support us in achieving our targets in this area.”