Hello there! I’m going to preface this with a caveat – I’m not, you will be surprised to hear, a legal expert and I’m relying on other people’s interpretation of the ruling to write this update, which may or may not be accurate. However, correct or otherwise, it does shed some light on the ending of ROKiT‘s sponsorship of the then somewhat beleaguered Formula 1 Team, which has, up until now, been somewhat of a mystery. Here we go…
Williams Racing has seemingly won a US court-case against former title sponsor ROKiT after the ‘global conglomerate and start-up incubator’ (as it describes itself on its website) was determined to have reneged on a multi-year deal with the British Formula 1 team.
Williams’ deal with ROKiT was first announced ahead of the 2019 Formula 1 season after the two agreed multi-year title-sponsorship deal that would see a number of ROKiT’s various brands appear on the Williams car & kit for the following three years, later extended to five.
And that appeared to be going swimmingly, despite Williams’ downturn in form, until June 2020, in the midst of a COVID-disrupted season, and with Williams perilously close to serious financial difficulties, it was revealed that ROKiT’s sponsorship would cease immediately.
Being a public company, Williams weren’t able to reveal exactly what had transpired, except to comment that the team had ‘met all our contractual obligations to ROKiT’.
Williams were subsequently bought out by US investment firm Dorilton Capital, who decided to continue to pursue the team’s claim against ROKiT (f*ck it, I’m not writing it like that again. It’s Rokit from now on, and they should consider themselves lucky they’re getting a capital R!) in California’s central court in early 2021.
In court it was revealed the as early as 2019 Rokit were behind in payments when Rokit failed to pay Williams an agreed $1m bonus, with messages showing that Rokit CEO Jonathan Kendrick was ‘blown away’ with the exposure his company/companies were getting from their association with Williams.
This was particularly significant in the ruling since, despite evidence showing that Rokit were to all intents and purposes continuing with the intention of paying Williams what was owed during their association, Rokit’s defence, when challenged in court, was that Williams had failed to meet its contractual obligations, hence Rokit’s unwillingness to pay.
U.S Arbitrator Klaus Reichert dismissed Rokit’s claims, ruling in Williams Racing’s favour to the tune of $35.7m.
Who knows how different things might have been for Williams if they’d received the money owed by Rokit at the time it was due. More investment could have impacted the team’s form, and their financial health as a result. And that being the case, with Rokit’s money, perhaps Sir Frank, Claire and the Williams family wouldn’t have chose to sell the team to Dorilton, and it would still be family owned.
And although it may just have delayed the inevitable, it would have been interesting to see the Williams family hang on to their team for another 24 months until what we’ve been promised will be the dawn of a bright new era in 2022 where the playing field has been levelled on and off-track.