Mercedes has faced pressure from a number of groups after announcing ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix that it had signed a deal with Kingspan, whose logos appear on the side of the nose of the team’s car.
Kingspan’s involvement in the Grenfell Tower disaster in June 2017 remains a point of scrutiny amid an enquiry, as its K15 insulation product was installed on the side of the tower.
Grenfell United, a group made up of survivors of the disaster and bereaved families, wrote to Mercedes F1 boss Wolff earlier this week urging him to reconsider the deal, which they called “truly shocking”. Wolff responded by offering to meet with the group to discuss the matter.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton was associated with the story when initial reports emerged in the UK media, given his profile and previous support for Grenfell families, and addressed the matter for the first time on Saturday evening in Jeddah after qualifying.
Hamilton said that it was “not something that I feel I have to speak of publicly”, but explained that he had “nothing to do with the team signing any of the sponsors” with the exception of clothing brand Tommy Hilfiger.
“Tommy was the only one that I brought to the team,” Hamilton said.
“It was news to me when I heard the things that happened this week. I was very much aware and watching very closely all the families that were affected by what happened there.
“We know there’s been a huge outcry and an amazing amount of support from people, from the community around there. So yeah, as I said, this really doesn’t have anything to do with me.
“I know Toto is sorting it. Unfortunately my name is associated with it, because it’s put on that car, but whether that remains the same, we shall see.”
British government minister Michael Gove joined the call for Mercedes to reconsider the sponsorship deal in a letter to Wolff that was published on Twitter.
“The Grenfell bereaved, survivors and wider community have been failed in the past by both the state and the private sector,” said Gove, who is the UK Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
“They are right to feel deeply hurt and aggrieved by your decision to sign this sponsorship deal whilst the public inquiry continues.”
Gove also warned that the UK government could change advertising and sponsorship laws for sports like F1 in the wake of the unease about the deal.
“The achievements of Mercedes and Sir Lewis Hamilton in recent years represent a British success story of which we are all proud,” Gove said.
“I hope you will reconsider this commercial partnership, which threatens to undermine all the good work the company and the sport have done.”
Novak Djokovic may face five years in prison as Home Affairs investigate Covid test error
AUSTRALIA’S Home Affairs department is now investigating Novak Djokovic over his breach of Covid isolation rules in Serbia and inconsistencies in his positive Covid test date.
Novak Djokovic looks to be in a losing battle over his Australian visa, as Australian immigration officials confirmed they would be investigating multiple discrepancies over the world No 1’s Covid test, travel documents and isolation breaches. Djokovic admitted on Wednesday that he had broken isolation rules in Serbia after testing positive last month.
Djokovic had his visa cancelled when arriving in Melbourne for the Australian Open last week after providing border officials with “minimal” proof of a medical exemption he was granted by Tennis Australia.
The nine-time Aussie Open champion appealed the decision and won on the grounds of “procedural fairness” after the federal government conceded they had not given Djokovic enough time to provide more proof or contact Tennis Australia.
While the Serb has been allowed freely into Melbourne, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is continuing to consider whether to cancel Djokovic’s visa for a second time on the basis that the reason for the No 1’s medical exemption – prior Covid infection in the last six months – is not a valid vaccine exemption for foreign nationals entering Australia.
The Department of Home Affairs is also separately investigating Djokovic, and it has now been confirmed that their probe has been widened to include his breach of Covid isolation rules in Serbia, inconsistencies on the date he claims he received his positive test result, and incorrect statements on his Australian Travel Declaration form, according to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
During the 20-time Major champion’s appeal hearing, a sworn court affidavit confirmed he was both “tested and diagnosed” on December 16, taking a PCR test earlier in the day and receiving notification of a positive result at around 8pm Serbian time.
It then surfaced that Djokovic had attended a children’s tennis event in Serbia on December 17, presenting awards while not wearing a mask, and took part in an interview with L’Equipe on December 18.
On Wednesday, the Serb released a statement claiming he only received notification of his positive test result after the children’s event on December 17, but admitted to breaking isolation rules by attending the interview on December 18 knowingly having Covid – a breach of Serbian isolation requirements…
Home Affairs will now consider both the contradictions in the date of Djokovic’s positive test result, and his decision to break Serbian Covid isolation rules as part of their probe.
If he is found to have given false evidence in regards to his Covid test he could face serious consequences, with a prison sentence of five years the maximum penalty giving false evidence under the Crimes Act.
As well as the inconsistencies surrounding the date, the Home Affairs department is probing new questions over whether the positive result was manipulated.
It was also reported on Tuesday that the Australian government were investigating whether the world No 1 lied on his declaration form when entering the country last week, as he claimed he had not travelled in the 14 days prior to arriving in Melbourne when he had gone from his home of Serbia to Spain in this period.
Djokovic was not believed to have filled in the form himself, instead having someone do it on his behalf, and in his statement on Tuesday he confirmed that his support team submitted the form on his behalf, and the incorrect information about his previous travel had been “human error”.
“On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf – as I told immigration officials on my arrival – and my agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia,” he said.
On the form, all travellers are asked whether they have “travelled or will travel in the 14 days prior to your flight to Australia”.
They are also warned that “giving false or misleading information is a serious offence. You may also be liable to a civil penalty for giving false or misleading information”, with a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Minister’s decision on whether to revoke Djokovic’s visa for a second time will continue to drag on, after a spokesperson for Mr Hawke confirmed on Wednesday that the world No 1’s lawyers had “recently provided lengthy further submissions and supporting documentation said to be relevant to the possible cancellation of Mr Djokovic’s visa”, and said: “Naturally, this will affect the timeframe for a decision.”
While the Immigration Minister’s decision is independent, he can also consider whether to cancel Djokovic’s visa on the grounds of his character, informed by the ongoing Home Affairs investigation.
Lewis Hamilton has already suggested the perfect way to end Max Verstappen debate
LEWIS HAMILTON missed out on landing his eighth F1 championship last month.
Lewis Hamilton missed out on landing a record eighth F1 championship last month as he was beaten to the title in controversial style at the season-decider in Abu Dhabi. Hamilton led for almost the entire Grand Prix, before race director Michael Masi allowed title rival Max Verstappen to pull level with him for a one-lap shootout after a safety car had come onto the track following a crash.
Verstappen ultimately won the race to claim his maiden title. And the Dutch driver has been tipped to dominate the sport for the next decade.
Hamilton has been revered as one of the best drivers in F1 history but will surely call time on his career in the coming years.
Verstappen is the new star of F1 and he will now want to stamp his authority on the sport and prove that he is the man to beat.
The rivalry between Hamilton and Verstappen was intense last year and led to a string of mouthwatering races.
The duo came to blows on a number of occasions as the championship proved all-consuming…
With the Red Bull driver finally toppling Hamilton last time around, the narrative around which driver is better will continue to be debated by everyone involved in the sport.
Hamilton has illustrated year after year that he is a formidable force in F1 and is at least on par with all of the superstars that went before him.
But Verstappen’s ability is clear to see. He has an edge and acts decisively to get the upper hand in races.
The debate is sure to continue during the 2022 season – but Hamilton has already suggested the perfect way to determine which driver is better.
In 2019, the Stevenage-born ace admitted the duo’s skill levels would be clear for all to see if Verstappen joined Mercedes as they would be driving the same car as team-mates.
“I see positives and potential negatives,” Hamilton said. “In some ways it would work well for me.
“I see stories that we have different cars and that is the only way [I beat him], so that would give me the opportunity to show that is not the case.”
Hamilton signed a new two-year contract with Mercedes last year, while Verstappen’s Red Bull deal also runs until the end of the 2023 season.
And with the competition between the two set to intensify once again next season, the chances that the duo will ever race alongside each other as team-mates is virtually zero.
So F1 fans and pundits will have to make their own minds up about which driver is the best.
Windsor: ‘Hamilton won’t be able to beat that well-oiled machine’
Peter Windsor is very critical of Lewis Hamilton’s title chances for 2022. He already mentioned the points by which the seven-time world champion will be at a disadvantage at the beginning of next season.
Inaddition, his prediction for the denouement of 2022 is also not tender for the Mercedes driver.
Hamilton gets tough with ‘machine’ around Verstappen
“If Hamilton is going to be world champion, it’s going to be because of something really strange has happened,” Windsor says in a video on You Tube.
All of Hamilton’s talent and the complete package he has around him at Mercedes will not be enough to beat the well-oiled machine made up of Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez, Adrian Newey and Red Bull Racing in 2022, according to F1 expert Windsor. The Brit concludes that it is going to be very difficult.
After his defeat in Abu Dhabi last year, it has been suspiciously quiet around the seven-time world champion. The F1 world is wondering if the Briton will return behind the wheel this year. Windsor also wonders. He does not think so, but he does expect the performance in 2022 to play a crucial role in the further course of Hamilton’s career.
“If Mercedes doesn’t have any advantage and is indeed slightly slower than Red Bull, then all those other points are going to count too. Hamilton will ask himself, ‘Do I really need this?'” Windsor hopes that his compatriot decides that he does indeed need ‘this’ and that we will continue to see Hamilton race for a long time to come, but concludes, “It’s going to be very difficult to maintain that impressive motivation of his when everything is stacking up against him.”