Williams being sued over ‘fraudulent statements’

ROKiT, which used to sponsor the Williams Formula 1 team, is seeking compensation for damage to its reputation.

Williams is facing legal action in a Florida court after its former sponsor ROKiT accused the team of causing damage to its reputation, seeking $149 million in compensation.

According to the legal action, ROKiT claims “fraudulent statements” were made when it agreed its sponsorship deal with the team.

ROKiT is arguing that Williams promised its car would be competitive in 2019, knowing that it didn’t have the funding to achieve that.

“The arbitrator was not aware of the fraudulent concealment of statements of material facts by defendants that were not discovered until after the arbitration had concluded,” ROKiT claims in a court submission.

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“[ROKiT] learned that the car was never capable of performing to the standards that defendants had guaranteed to the plaintiffs, and that defendants were aware of and concealed this fact.

“[The] defendants intentionally and fraudulently concealed the fact that Williams Engineering simply did not have enough money to develop the F1 car.

“As a direct and proximate result of the fraudulent statements made by the defendants, [the] plaintiffs have suffered significant financial loss and damage to their goodwill and business reputation.”

Ultimately, Williams finished the 2019 season in last place in the Constructors’ Standings with only 1 point, while its drivers finished in 19th and 20th in the Drivers’ Championship.

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Williams, its deputy team principal Claire Williams and former team executives Mike O’Driscoll and Doug Lafferty are all named as defendents in the case.

Williams has rejected the legal action as “spurious.”

“Having successfully won an arbitration against ROKiT in the UK and successfully petitioning for the arbitral award to be confirmed by a federal court in the United States, Williams continues to trust in the court processes in regards to this unfortunate matter,” the team told Motorsport.com

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ROKiT’s Jonathan Kendrick signed a three year deal with Williams in January 2019, becoming the company’s title sponsor for the year. 

During the 2019 season, ROKiT agreed to extend the deal for a further two years, as well as negotiating a second deal with the ROKiT drinks company. 

The deal between ROKiT and Williams would ultimately be cancelled by Williams in May 2020, as the team was in negotiations with new owners Dorilton, which ultimately bought the F1 outfit in the autumn.