According to reports, ROKiT, until a mere four weeks ago title sponsor of Williams Racing, is set to join forces with Formula 1 Champions AMG Mercedes F1 as soon as the Austrian Grand Prix – the first round of the truncated 2020 Formula 1 season.
Some mystery remains around why the British telecomms company and Williams – one of the most successful and iconic Grand Prix teams in F1’s 70 year history – parted ways, with no official confirmation from either party of who instigated the move, except for the claim by Williams that they met all of their contractual obligations.
While it is rumoured that around $12m is still owed to Williams by ROKiT, the likelihood that Mercedes – part owned by Toto Wolff, who also has a stake in Williams – would get into bed with a company who defaulted on their last F1 sponsorship deal is incredibly slim, and so it would throw some considerable doubt that ROKiT’s ties with Williams were severed as a result of non-payment of money owed.
Another curiosity of the mooted deal is that ROKiT make phones. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes’ #1 driver and most high profile employee is a hugely visible user of a different phone brand, and (having had a ROKiT phone, and it being a bit shit I feel qualified to say this) it’s exceedingly unlikely he’ll be convinced to stop using his Californian-made device in favour of a ROKiT equivalent.
A second potential conflict is energy drink Monster’s existing sponsorship of the Mercedes Team. ROKiT’s stable of brands includes an energy drink (ROKiT Fuel, whose brand incorporates the ROKiT Logo), which could prove problematic.
That being said, ROKiT already has a relationship with the Venturi Formula E team, where Toto Wolff’s wife Susie is Team Principal. It also sponsors Nic Hamilton, Lewis’ brother in BTCC so they’re already part of the Mercedes’ family – I wonder if that’s something that has allowed the two parties to come together.
ROKiT’s Williams deal is thought to have cost them around £20m a year, for which they got a sizeable part of the car’s livery to play with. The square footage they’re likely to get for the same money over at Mercedes is likely to be considerably smaller – but that’s the price you pay to align yourself with the World Champions.