Wolff offers to meet Grenfell United after Kingspan F1 deal anger
Mercedes Formula 1 team boss Toto Wolff has offered to meet the survivors and bereaved families of the Grenfell disaster, amid backlash over the outfit’s new sponsorship deal with Kingspan.
Ahead of the Saudi Arabian GP, Mercedes announced a new sponsorship deal with the insulation and building envelope firm Kingspan, with the company's logos appearing on the W12 car.
The move triggered a backlash from survivors and those families impacted by the Grenfell fire disaster in 2017, which killed 72 people.
Kingspan's K15 insulation was one of the products installed on the Grenfell Tower, and the company's involvement in the disaster has been widely probed.
Grenfell United, a pressure group made up of the families of victims and survivors, were the first to speak out about the move and asked Mercedes to cancel the deal.
In an open letter to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, they wrote: "This week's announcement of your new partnership with Kingspan is 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."
They added: "By partnering with Kingspan, we believe that you are directly involved in this system which puts profit before human life. We are therefore seeking assurances from you that you will take affirmative action to disassociate yourselves from Kingspan.
"Grenfell United would like you to share the letter with your shareholders and await your reply. We would be happy to facilitate a meeting with you to discuss this further.
"It cannot just be 'business as usual'. We hope you can demonstrate that ethics and values do exist in F1 and there are consequences to actions."
The focus on the Kingspan sponsorship deal ramped up when Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, revealed that he would be writing to Mercedes to ask it to review the partnership.
Posting on Twitter, he wrote: "Deeply disappointed that @MercedesAMGF1 are accepting sponsorship from cladding firm Kingspan while the Grenfell Inquiry is ongoing. I will be writing to Mercedes to ask them to reconsider. The Grenfell community deserves better."
Mercedes is aware of the criticisms that it has faced and, while it has not offered to cancel the sponsorship deal, Wolff has said he would be happy to learn more about the impact of the disaster from Grenfell United.
In a letter that was published on the Mercedes social media channels, Wolff wrote: "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 apologise 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. 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.
"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."
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