Rich announces end of Haas F1 deal via Twitter

Adam Cooper

A spokesman declined to comment when asked to confirm that its title sponsor has attempted to pull out of its deal.

The extraordinary announcement appears to signal the end of Rich’s association with the US-owned team, which was announced last October. It comes just days after a court order confirmed that Rich could not use its stag logo after July 18 because it infringed the copyright of British company Whyte Bikes.

In addition Rich CEO William Storey is required to provide details of the company’s drinks production and financial performance, including its relationship with Haas, by August 1.

The full text of Rich’s tweet read as follows: “Today @rich_energy terminated our contract with @HaasF1Team for poor performance. We aim to beat @redbullracing & being behind @WilliamsRacing in Austria is unacceptable. The politics and PC attitude in @F1 is also inhibiting our business. We wish the team well.”

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The development comes as a major blow for the Haas team. Not only has it seemingly lost the ongoing support of its title sponsor, the suggestion of poor performance as an excuse for terminating the contract is one that team owner Gene Haas is unlikely to take lightly.

Rich’s first association with F1 came last summer when Storey attempted to buy the then-Force India team. Later he pursued a sponsorship deal with , in which Bernie Ecclestone had a hand as a middleman.

Storey was a guest of the Williams team at the United States Grand Prix and was due to sign an agreement on the Sunday evening after the race. However, he failed to show at a dinner appointment with Claire Williams.

Soon after the chequered flag in Austin he met with Haas boss Gunther Steiner in the paddock. A deal to back the team was announced a few days later, just prior to the Mexican GP. It’s believed that the Haas deal was significantly cheaper for Rich than the one agreed with Williams.

Asked that weekend by Motorsport.com if Haas had done its due diligence on Rich given the short time frame, Steiner said: “Your due diligence you don’t do with the person there, there’s some other ways to do that.

"We did what we need to do. We needed to do it before we met him. Why do you doubt that? Obviously we did what we needed to do, and our legal advisors were content with that.”

Rich hit a legal hurdle when its use of the stag logo was challenged by Whyte in the UK’s High Court of Justice in a case that named Rich, Storey and logo designer Staxoweb as co-defendants.

In a judgement issued on May 14 Judge Melissa Clarke backed the bicycle company. She also questioned Storey’s credibility as a witness, noting: “He often did not answer questions directly, preferring to make speeches about his vision for his business or alternatively seeking to evade questions by speaking in generalities or in the third person plural.

“He only answered several questions when I intervened. He had a tendency to make impressive statements, which on further investigation or consideration were not quite what they seemed.”

She added: “I am satisfied that some of Mr Storey’s evidence was incorrect or misleading and that he was involved in the manufacture of documents during the course of litigation to provide additional support for the Defendants’ case.”