Lewis Hamilton's F1 Team Apologizes to Grenfell Tower Fire Victims for Sponsorship Ties

The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One racing team, which includes world champion Lewis Hamilton, apologized Friday for any harm caused by the recent announcement of a new sponsorship with a company that played a role in a 2017 fire that killed 72 people, the Associated Press reported.

Earlier this week, the racing team announced Kingspan, an Irish company that makes building and construction materials, would have a logo on Hamilton's car starting this weekend.

Public inquiries have revealed that Kingspan made about 5 percent of the insulation cladding used in a renovation of London's Grenfell Tower, which caught fire and spread through the building and left 72 dead, according to the BBC.

In a letter sent to Mercedes-AMG Petronas CEO Toto Wolff this week, Grenfell United, a group for survivors and family members of the fire's victims, accused Kingspan of "playing a central role in the pain and suffering that we feel today," and requested the sponsorship deal be dissolved immediately.

The investigation into the incident claimed Kingspan continued to manufacture and distribute insulation cladding that was highly flammable, and ignored customer safety concerns about the product, according to ESPN.

Wolff said the company discussed the fire before the partnership became official, and Kingspan assured them they played no direct role in the renovation of the building, but the racing team said it regretted the way the announcement impacted its fans.

"On behalf of our team, I would sincerely like to apologize to you for the additional hurt that this announcement has caused,'' Wolff said in a letter posted to Twitter directed to the groups that criticized the move. "It was never our intention to do so.''

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Lewis Hamilton, F1, Mercedes Grenfell Fire
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton's team apologized Friday following criticism of the recent announcement of Kingspan as a new sponsor for their alleged role in the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire that killed 72 in London. Above, Hamilton, of Britain, adjusts his helmet Friday during a practice session for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jiddah. Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

The fire started in a fourth-floor refrigerator and raced up the residential building, which experts said likely was caused by flammable materials used in an exterior renovation.

Wolff said he hoped to meet with Grenfell Tower survivors as soon as possible.
Criticism of the deal is particularly difficult for Mercedes because Hamilton, a seven-time world champion from Stevenage, England, has been outspoken in his support of the Grenfell community. Hamilton is currently in second place in the Formula One driver's standings with two races left in the season.

Kingspan said its products accounted for only a small percentage of the insulation used in the project, and it was used as a substitute without the company's knowledge "in a system that was not compliant" with building regulations.

Wolff acknowledged the "deep and ongoing pain" suffered by survivors.

"I would like to thank Grenfell United for the offer to meet in person for me to learn and understand better,'' Wolff said. "I look forward to coming together as soon as we can.''

Lewis Hamilton, F1, Mercedes, Grenfell Fire
The Mercedes F1 team that features star Lewis Hamilton apologized Friday for a new sponsorship deal announced this week with Kingspan, a construction materials company accused of providing allegedly flammable materials in the renovation of a building prior to a 2017 fire. Above, Grenfell Tower, four years after the fire that claimed 72 lives, on June 14, 2021, in London. Guy Smallman/Getty Images