Gove warns Mercedes F1 he will intervene over Grenfell insulation partnership

ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports on the row

Ministers could change the rules on advertising on racing cars if the Mercedes Formula One team does not reverse a decision to partner with an insulation firm linked to Grenfell Tower, the housing secretary has warned.

Communities Secretary Michael Gove threatened the intervention in a letter to Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team principal Toto Wolff over the team's sponsorship deal with Kingspan.

The warning came after Wolff apologised to the survivors of the Grenfell Tower disaster over the collaboration but stopped short of reversing the deal.

Gove said that while advertising in sporting arenas and on vehicles in England is currently excluded from controls by his department "my Cabinet colleagues and I will keep this system under constant and close review to ensure that the advertising regime remains fit for purpose and reflects the public interest."

Wolff acknowledged the "additional hurt that this announcement has caused" in response to a letter from survivors' group Grenfell United, before repeating Kingspan's statement that its cladding was used without the firm's permission.

"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," Wolff said in a statement posted on Twitter by Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team.

He described the ongoing inquiry into the disaster as "crucially important".

Wolff appeared to agree to a meeting with Grenfell United, stating that he looked forward to "coming together as soon as we can" and thanked the group for the offer "for me to learn and understand better."

The group, which represents the survivors and bereaved families of the 2017 tragedy, called the deal "truly shocking" and said the news had "shattered" them in an open letter to Mercedes.

The sponsorship agreement was condemned by government and shadow housing ministers, as well as London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Gove described Mercedes' decision as "deeply disappointing," while shadow levelling-up secretary Lisa Nandy said the choice was "disrespectful" to Grenfell survivors and bereaved families.

Despite calls on Mercedes to rethink the deal, team boss Wolff released a statement standing by his decision on Friday afternoon, prompting the housing minister's warning over the rules on advertising on racing cars if it presses ahead with the sponsorship deal.

Gove added: "I am conscious that there are very real questions about whether Parliament would support a statutory regime that enabled a core participant in a public inquiry in to how 72 people lost their lives to advertise its products publicly to millions of families across the country.

"The achievements of Mercedes and Sir Lewis Hamilton in recent years represent a British success story of which we are all proud.

"I hope you will reconsider this commercial partnership which threatens to undermine all the good work the company and sport has done."

Hamilton, who has driven for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team for eight years, has been a vocal ally of the victims of the fire that killed 72 people.

Last year he posted on Instagram: "Today marks three years since the horrific Grenfell Tower fire in London.

"Remembering the 72 souls we lost and their loved ones, and everyone affected by this tragedy."

A spokesperson for Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 told ITV News London that Hamilton was not available for comment.