LONDON (Reuters) -Mercedes Formula One boss Toto Wolff is to meet survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire after apologising on behalf of his team on Friday for any distress caused by a sponsorship deal with a company linked to the 2017 disaster.
The deal with Kingspan, an Irish company that produces high-performance insulation and cladding products including some used on the West London tower block, was announced this week.
The company’s branding is on the car that seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton is driving at this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Grenfell United, representing survivors of the blaze that killed 72 people, had written to Wolff seeking to have the “truly shocking” partnership terminated.
In a written reply, Wolff apologised for “the additional hurt that this announcement has caused”.
He said Mercedes had engaged with the company “in depth” prior to the deal to understand any part their products played in the disaster, and were assured they had no role in the design or construction of the cladding system.
Highly combustible cladding has been identified as central to the rapid spread of flames.
“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,” wrote the Austrian.
“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.”
British Housing Minister Michael Gove has also called for Mercedes to reconsider the partnership, saying on Twitter that he was “deeply disappointed” Mercedes were accepting sponsorship from Kingspan while an inquiry was ongoing.
“I will be writing to Mercedes to ask them to reconsider. The Grenfell community deserves better,” he said.
Gove’s opposition counterpart Lisa Nandy welcomed his “swift criticism” but called on him to take the same stance and return party political donations from property developers responsible for buildings with similar cladding.
Kingspan said in a statement it had no role in the design of the cladding system on Grenfell Tower, where its K15 product constituted approximately 5% of the insulation.
It added that this “was used as a substitute product without Kingspan’s knowledge in a system that was not compliant with the buildings regulations.
“The new partnership with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team reflects the ambitious sustainability targets of both organisations.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Louise Heavens and Rohith Nair)