Energy drinks company Rich Energy has announced the cancellation of its title sponsorship agreement with the Haas Formula One team, blaming poor performance at the Austrian Grand Prix and the politics of the global motor racing series.
In a short statement on Twitter, the company said: ‘Today [10th July] Rich Energy terminated our contract with the Haas Formula One team for poor performance. We aim to beat Red Bull Racing and being behind Williams Racing in Austria is unacceptable. The politics and PC attitude in Formula One is also inhibiting our business. We wish the team well.’
Rich Energy had agreed a deal as Haas’ title sponsor for the 2019 season back in October 2018, which saw the Formula One team change its name to Rich Energy Haas F1. The agreement saw its cars change their livery to black and gold, with prominent Rich Energy branding on the engine cover, nose and front wing endplates.
The energy company had held a long-term interest in entering the sport, even considering buying out cash-strapped Force India team before it was acquired by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll and became Racing Point Force India.
Rich Energy had also hoped the partnership would seem it challenge business rivals Red Bull “on and off the track” and often took swipes at them on social media.
But, after finishing fifth in the constructors’ championship last year, Haas have experienced a nightmare 2019, sitting second last in the standings, only being kept off the bottom by Williams who are yet to register a point.
The team’s performance at the Austrian Grand Prix appears to have been the tipping point. Drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen finished 16th and 19th, with Magnussen even having the ignominy of being handed a drive-through penalty for starting out of positon on his grid slot.
Added to that, the team was ordered by the UK’s High Court to remove Rich Energy’s stag logo from its cars due to a copyright dispute with Whyte Bikes, which has a similar design, essentially giving energy drinks firm minimal brand exposure.
Despite the court order, which also entitled Whyte Bikes to potential damages or a share of profits, Rich Energy claimed the ruling would not affect its commitment to Formula One, but has now backtracked.
It is yet unclear if a financial settlement was reached which enabled Rich Energy to terminate its deal with Haas prematurely, or if it exercised a break clause.
In a statement, Guenther Steiner, team principal Haas, said: ‘Rich Energy is currently the title partner of Haas F1 Team. I cannot comment further on the contractual relationship between our two parties due to commercial confidentiality.’