Michael Gove slams Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes deal with Grenfell firm
Michael Gove slams Lewis Hamilton over his Mercedes racing team’s sponsorship deal with Grenfell firm as under-fire driver defends decision to race in Saudi Arabia
- Mercedes-AMG Petronas signed a partnership deal with Kingspan this week
- Kingspan were responsible for the combustible insulation at Grenfell Tower
- The team have faced calls from survivors and politicians to pull out of the deal
Michael Gove has slammed Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One team for signing a partnership deal with a firm behind the combustible insulation used in Grenfell Tower.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas announced an agreement with Kingspan which has been widely condemned by survivors from the inferno and politicians.
Hamilton’s racing car will be emblazoned with the company’s logo from this weekend Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia – where the seven-time champion will wear a rainbow helmet in protest against the kingdom’s crackdown on LGBT rights.
Michael Gove has slammed Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One team for signing a partnership deal with a firm behind the combustible insulation used in Grenfell Tower (pictured at the Qatar Grand Prix in November)
Kingspan’s K15 insulation was one of the products installed on Grenfell Tower during its refurbishment
Communities secretary Gove said he would write to the Mercedes team to ask it to reconsider the deal, adding it was ‘deeply disappointing’ it had accepted the sponsorship.
He added ‘the Grenfell community deserves better’ and they are ‘right to feel deeply hurt and aggrieved’ by the decision.
He wrote: ‘My Cabinet colleagues and I will keep this system under constant and close review to ensure that the advertising regime remains fit for purpose and reflects the public interest.
‘I am conscious that there are very real questions about whether Parliament would support a statutory regime that enabled a core participant in a public inquiry in to how 72 people lost their lives to advertise its products publicly to millions of families across the country.
‘The achievements of Mercedes and Sir Lewis Hamilton in recent years represent a British success story of which we are all proud.
‘I hope you will reconsider this commercial partnership which threatens to undermine all the good work the company and sport has done.’
Shadow levelling-up secretary Lisa Nandy said she hopes Hamilton is making his views ‘clearly known’ to those who made the decision about the Kingspan deal.
Nandy said she supports Gove in his criticism, but has written to him asking him to ‘take the same principled stance in relation to the decision by the Conservative Party to take millions of pounds in donations from property developers responsible for flats that have been covered in the same dangerous ACM cladding’ since the fire in 2017.
Asked if she thinks Hamilton should speak out about those who sponsor his team, Ms Nandy told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘I think the key point is that it’s not his decision and I hope that he is making his views clearly known to the people who have made this decision.
Communities secretary Gove said he would write to the Mercedes team to ask it to reconsider the deal (pictured last month)
‘Lewis Hamilton has been an ally of the Grenfell community. He’s spoken out about this issue before.
‘I suspect he will be doing that behind the scenes, but the key is to make sure that all of us across the political spectrum ramp up the pressure to ensure that this doesn’t go ahead.
‘It is deeply disrespectful to people who lost everything four years ago. They felt very invisible in the political system.
‘That was what allowed this to happen in the first place.
‘We’ve got to send a clear and unequivocal message that they are invisible no more, that people’s lives matter, and that we’ll stand with them while this inquiry is ongoing.’
Meanwhile Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has apologised to Grenfell survivors and bereaved relatives in the wake of the criticism over the deal.
He thanked campaign group Grenfell United for their offer to meet following their condemnation of the deal with Kingspan.
In a letter, Wolff said the 2017 fire in west London was ‘beyond imaginable’, and said he wanted to apologise for the ‘additional hurt’ the Kingspan announcement had caused.
Shadow levelling-up secretary Lisa Nandy said she hopes Hamilton is making his views ‘clearly known’
Kingspan’s K15 insulation was one of the products installed on Grenfell Tower during its refurbishment, although the majority of the insulation used on the west London tower block was made by another company.
An inquiry is examining how Grenfell Tower came to be coated in flammable materials which contributed to the spread of flames which shot up the tower in June 2017, killing 72 people.
Grenfell United wrote to Wolff urging him to end the Kingspan deal.
In a letter to the group, posted on social media and sent directly to the group, Wolff said: ‘Thank you for your letter about our partnership with Kingspan, which I received yesterday.
‘The tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire was beyond imaginable to me, and it should never have happened.
‘On behalf of our team, I would sincerely like to apologize to you for the additional hurt that this announcement has caused.
‘It was never our intention to do so.
‘The work of the public inquiry to establish the full causes of the tragedy is crucially important.’
Wolff said that prior to concluding the partnership his team ‘engaged with Kingspan in depth to understand what role their products played in what happened at Grenfell’.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has apologised to Grenfell survivors and bereaved relatives in the wake of the criticism over the deal
He said: ‘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.’
He added: ‘I know that this does not change in any way the awful tragedy you suffered, or the deep and ongoing pain felt in your community, and I would like to thank Grenfell United for the offer to meet in person for me to learn and understand better.
‘I look forward to coming together as soon as we can.’
Hamilton has previously written about the Grenfell Tower fire on his Instagram account.
In 2020 he posted a picture with a caption that said: ‘Today marks three years since the horrific Grenfell Tower fire in London.
‘Remembering the 72 souls we lost and their loved ones, and everyone affected by this tragedy.’
Kingspan said in a statement: ‘The Grenfell Tower fire was a tragedy that should never have happened, and Kingspan supports the vitally important work of the inquiry to determine what went wrong and why.
Lewis Hamilton will once again wear a rainbow helmet in support of the LGBTQ+ community
‘Kingspan played no role in the design of the cladding system on Grenfell Tower, where its K15 product constituted approximately 5% of the insulation and was used as a substitute product without Kingspan’s knowledge in a system that was not compliant with the building’s regulations.
‘The new partnership with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team reflects the ambitious sustainability targets of both organisations.’
Hamilton heads into this weekend’s inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix just eight points behind championship leader Max Verstappen with a maximum of 52 points up for grabs.
The final race of the season comes next week in Abu Dhabi and if Hamilton can fight back and claim the title, he insists it will be an unrivalled feeling.
‘It would be for sure,’ he replied when asked if moving clear of Michael Schumacher with an eight championship would make this one the best title yet.
‘It is something no-one has ever done before, the toughest battle the sport has seen in a long, long time and the most challenging, plus we are in a pandemic and all the stuff we have been faced with.’
Hamilton will wear a helmet sporting rainbow and coloured chevrons in support of the LGBTQ+ community in Saudi Arabia, as he did in Qatar where same-sex relationships are also illegal.
‘As I said at the last race, I felt the sport and we (the drivers) are duty-bound to ensure we try and raise awareness for certain issues, especially human rights in the countries we are going to,’ he said.
‘With the utmost respect for everyone that is here, I have had a warm 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.
‘Do I feel comfortable here? I couldn’t say I do, but it isn’t my choice to be here, the sport has taken the choice to be here and whether it is right or wrong, while we are here I think it is important to raise awareness.
‘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.’
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