After being dropped by the Haas Formula One team, former title sponsor Uralkali has officially demanded the team repay $13 million dollars because, as Uralkali alleged, the team broke the sponsorship contract they had forged. There’s just one problem: Haas think it’s justified, and it’s demanding an additional $8 million in damages.
To get the full context here, we need to back up. The Haas F1 team dropped its Russian driver Nikita Mazepin and its Russian Uralkali title sponsorship — a company owned by Mazepin’s father — soon after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. This took place just before the official start of the 2022 F1 season, and Haas has since removed all Uralkali branding and re-hired former driver Kevin Magnussen.
Uralkali, as you can imagine, was not pleased and sent a letter to Haas in the aftermath to demand repayment of the $13 million Uralkali paid for a title sponsorship before the season starts, Autosport reports.
There’s just one problem: Haas thinks it has the legal high ground here.
In documents seen by Autosport, Haas turned the tables on Uralkali and denied it had to pay anything back while also demanding that the mining company pay an additional $8 million to the team for damages.
From the article:
In the letter from the Haas team to the Russian company, a copy of which has been seen by Autosport, the American-owned team insists it had a right to end the deal because of a clause in the sponsorship agreement which stated that Uralkali does not ‘injure, bring into dispute, ridicule, or lessen the public reputation, goodwill of favourable image of Haas’.
Haas claims that the Mazepin ties to the Kremlin, allied to sanctions imposed by the European Union, triggered the disrepute clause. However, no sanctions had been imposed by the European Union or any other parties when the contract was terminated.
Sounds like someone learned from the poor run-ins with its last title sponsorship.
To add insult to injury, Haas apparently promised to deliver a race-driven Haas F1 car to the Mazepin family. If Uralkali fails to pay those $8 million, the team won’t pass over the car.
Autosport adds that, according to one of its sources, Haas is also refusing to pay Mazepin’s salary for his time worked as a driver at the start of the 2022 season.
It’s one hell of a complicated situation, but one thing is all but guaranteed: Haas will likely be getting very comfortable with a courtroom in the near future.