ROKiT sues Williams F1 team for $149m over “fraudulent” statements
The Williams Formula 1 team is facing a $149 million claim from its former title sponsor, ROKiT, over allegations of “fraudulent” statements made about the performance of its 2019 car.
The former title sponsor of the Williams F1 team, has filed a $149 million claim against Williams Grand Prix Engineering, its former deputy team principal Claire Williams, former CEO O’Driscoll, and chief finance officer Lafferty. The claim was made in the United States District Court Southern District of Florida and is based on allegations that the team made “fraudulent” statements about the performance targets of its 2019 car that it could never achieve, leading to damage to ROKiT’s reputation.
Williams, which was awarded over £26m in its own arbitration case against ROKiT in 2021 for missing payments, dismissed the claim brought against it as “spurious”. ROKiT served as the team’s title sponsor for the 2019 F1 season, and an extension to the original three-year agreement was activated during that campaign.
The Williams Formula 1 team unveiled its 2020 car in a ROKiT livery, but the title sponsorship was terminated between the launch and the first round of the season, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The termination coincided with the team’s announcement of a strategic review that ultimately led to its sale to investment firm Dorilton Capital later that year. The team is now independently owned by Dorilton Capital.
ROKiT filed a claim against Williams related to the 2019 season, based on assurances Williams made about its performance. The contract between the two parties was extended for two years through an amendment on July 10, 2019. ROKiT agreed to pay £13.5m annually under the condition that Williams was obligated to perform according to two contractual clauses.
As per the claim, “fraudulent statements and guarantees” were made during a meeting between ROKiT founder Jonathan Kendrick, deputy team principal Williams, O’Driscoll, and Lafferty, regarding the performance of the 2019 FW42 F1 car. ROKiT claims it was told that the car would have “industry-leading performance capabilities including a Mercedes-Benz engine,” and would be competitive, placing in the upper side of the leaderboard and not slower than the 2018 Williams F1 car.
In the 2018 constructors’ championship, Williams finished last with seven points, excluding the excluded Force India entity (which had outscored Williams anyway) that ran until F1’s summer break. In 2019, the team only managed to secure a single point.
According to the document, Williams informed ROKiT that it had hired Paddy Lowe, the ex-technical director of Mercedes Formula One, who was considered a legend in the industry. Williams claimed that Lowe would be able to develop the F1 car to competitive standards, which would be in line with the sponsorship agreements.
Lowe left Williams two years after joining the team in early 2019, following a difficult winter in which the FW42 arrived late to testing and was not competitive when it eventually started running.
ROKiT’s submission claims that it was unaware of the fraudulent concealment of material facts by the defendants, which were not discovered until after the arbitration had concluded. The claim states that as a direct result, ROKiT suffered significant financial losses and damage to its goodwill and business reputation, and is seeking compensation in excess of $149,528,550, or a sum to be determined by a jury at trial.
Williams provided a statement to The Race, stating that it is aware of the claim made by ROKiT and considers it to be spurious. The statement added that following Williams’ successful arbitration against ROKiT in the UK, and the confirmation of the arbitral award by a federal court in the US, the team continues to have faith in the court processes regarding this matter.
ROKiT sues Williams F1 team for $149m over “fraudulent” ROKiT sues Williams F1 team for $149m over “fraudulent” ROKiT sues Williams F1 team for $149m over “fraudulent” ROKiT sues Williams F1 team for $149m over “fraudulent”
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