George Russell, Williams, Monaco, 2019

Former Williams sponsor Rokit brings case claiming $149 million in damages

2023 F1 season

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The ongoing legal between Williams and Rokit has taken another turn as the team’s former sponsor has brought a case to court demanding $149 million (£119m) in damages.

Rokit alleges Williams gave them assurances they had produced a competitive car for the upcoming season when they agreed a title sponsorship deal for 2019. It claims its reputation was damaged when the team subsequently endured an uncompetitive season in which it finished last in the championship.

The brand, which now backs teams in other racing series, names Williams and members of its former management as defendants in its case, lodged at the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. They include former deputy team principal Claire Williams, who is the daughter of team founder Sir Frank Williams, as well as Mike O’Driscoll and Doug Lafferty, who were the group CEO and chief financial officer respectively.

Robert Kubica, Williams, Red Bull Ring, 2019
Williams scored just one point in 2019
Rokit claim its representatives were told by the team “on or about January 18, 2019 at Williams Engineering headquarters in Grove” that their new car “had industry leading performance capabilities including a Mercedes-Benz engine and would have excellent chances to be competitive, would place in the upper side of the leaderboard, and would not be slower than the 2018 Williams F1 car.” The team also told them it had hired Paddy Lowe from reigning champions Mercedes to aid their development.

However Rokit claims Williams did not have the funds to develop a competitive car. It claims the defendants “intentionally and fraudulently concealed the fact that Williams Engineering simply did not have enough money to develop the F1 car which would be subject to the Sponsorship Agreements to an industry leading standard, and therefore Defendants knew that the F1 car which would be subject to the Sponsorship Agreements had no chance to be competitive, or at the least place in the upper side of the leaderboard, and actively concealed this fact from the Plaintiffs’ subsidiaries ROK and RMI.”

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Rokit argue they have “suffered significant financial loss and damage to their goodwill and business reputation” as a result of Williams’ actions. They are seeking “an amount in excess of $149,528,550 dollars or in an amount to be determined at by a jury at trial” in damages.

In a statement supplied to RaceFans, Williams said it is “aware of this spurious claim.”

“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 regard to this unfortunate matter,” it added.

After the team raced in Rokit’s branding throughout 2019, Williams launched its car for the following season carrying their logos again. However the start of the season was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and during the hiatus the split between the two parties became public knowledge.

Williams announced it had terminated their sponsorship agreement in May 2020. The team was also put up for sale around the same time and was later acquired by Dorilton Capital.

Williams took legal action against Rokit over what it claimed were unpaid sponsorship fees. Last year the District Court of the Central District of California ordered Rokit to pay Williams £26.2 million.

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    28 comments on “Former Williams sponsor Rokit brings case claiming $149 million in damages”

    1. I’m no legal expert but I’m fairly sure you cannot sue a team you choose to sponsor for not being competitive enough, and I doubt the argument that Williams knowingly produced an uncompetitive car holds any weight because how could they possibly know that prior to the season commencing. All assertions that Rokit claims Williams made are true, they did have a Mercedes engine, they did have Paddy Lowe and they had a chance of being competitive (even if it was not a very high one). So I expect this case to be thrown out for the spiteful attack that it is and would suggest both sides do better due diligence in future before engaging in Commercial sponsorship deals.

      1. In America anyone can sue anyone for anything – doesn’t mean they’ll win the case though…….

        1. Quite right there @stever!

          This case really is pretty likely to get thrown out.

      2. I also wonder why Rokit filed the lawsuit in the southern District of Florida, as they are headquartered in Pacific Palisades, California, which is probably why Williams sued them in California. What standing would they have in Florida? Also, as a general statement, agreements between businesses usually specify which country’s laws apply and where actions can be filed. If one Googles ‘Rokit’ you get a bunch of Rokit corporate speak hits.

        1. What standing would they have in Florida?

          @stever I agree with your thoughts in regards to Rokit taking Williams to court in Florida. My understanding is legal disputes with F1 should be taken to a court in Europe, but I’m not exactly sure which one. I thought it was in Paris, but on the Formula 1 website I found this: “Disputes arising here from shall be exclusively subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales,” which sounds much more logical. Regardless of whether it is in Paris or in an English court, how is a judge in Florida supposed to know how to interpret a contract based upon English or European law?
          I was surprised Williams took Rokit to court in California, but you explained the rationale there. Nevertheless we are left wondering why Rokit took Williams to court in Florida because as far as I can tell that court has no jurisdiction over this case (assuming this isn’t specified in their contract). Say Rokit did win in Florida, how is the court there supposed to enforce their authority over this case?

          1. Nevertheless we are left wondering why Rokit took Williams to court in Florida because as far as I can tell that court has no jurisdiction over this case

            The Florida judges are probably cheaper.

    2. Given how competitiveness never appears to have come up in the proceedings regarding their failure to pay the contracted amount to Williams, one might be inclined to call this lawsuit spurious.

      1. Over here we call them frivolous lawsuits. Here’s an example that might apply to Rokit’s court action:

        Rosenberg v. Google Co., Utah District Court (2009)

        In 2009, Lauren Rosenberg sued Google for more than $100,000. The basis of her lawsuit was that Google Maps advised her to walk along a freeway to get to her destination. Despite the directions being clearly wrong (or at least dangerous), she followed the directions precisely and was hit by a car.

        The district court granted Google’s motion to dismiss the frivolous lawsuit.

    3. Not sure how any of the Williams statements are incorrect, and honestly if they had guaranteed a position before even preseason testing then it would have been off the record type conversations.

      I’m still trying to work out what it is Rokit even sell… quote the diverse portfolio of things no one buys!

      Williams are a team that almost everyone likes and wants to be successful, I reckon taking them to court will do worse for the Rokit brand than any bad performance.

      1. I thought they went bankrupt / defaulted on their payments to other racing teams.
        It kinda looks like Rokit has the brand, and leases it around to any bidder who makes…anything.

        Ugh, (one of) their taglines is A Next Generation Media Company

    4. Considering I’ve only ever heard of Rokit because of its association with Williams, I fail to see how this holds water. Unless of course it’s just more grandstanding in an effort to generate more publicity.

    5. Very hard to fraudulently conceal how slow your car is when it’s televised in front of millions 20 or more times a year..

    6. Still ongoing this long after their association ended?

      1. Longer than the 60 minutes it took you to post, anyway

        1. Come on Simon. Isn’t this getting a bit dull

    7. If Williams told Rokit their car “would place in the upper side of the leaderboard” and this statement was the basis for the sponsorship deal, then I would think that Rokit has a good case.

      If Williams told Rokit their car “would place in the upper side of the leaderboard” knowing full well that they did not have the funds to develop such a car, I would see that as bordering on fraud.

      I find it hard to believe that Williams said anything of the sort, I am curious to see how Rokit can prove such statements were made.

      1. Wrong country as Williams is based in England so you can ignore this. Williams even sued Rokit in their homebase (LA) and won….

    8. Adam (@rocketpanda)
      4th April 2023, 12:28

      Rokit giving crazy ex-girlfriend vibes here. Perhaps Rokit and Rich Energy should team up together?

      1. Yes. Rokit Energy!

    9. Oh my. What a reason for wanting to get money out of Williams. It was clear Williams was not going to make a big jump that season. Rokit clearly needed some more knowledge about F1 before spending big money in F1.

      I’m sure in Indycar, Foyt must have given them a similar outlook when they sponsored them. I hope they not going to try get sponsorship money back from Foyt. It would just make a bad image for Rokit and no one would want to do business with them.

    10. I guess the people in ROKiT’s marketing department worked out they could get a hell of a lot of publicity fairly cheaply by bringing this claim against Williams.

    11. Neil (@neilosjames)
      4th April 2023, 17:14

      “had industry leading performance capabilities including a Mercedes-Benz engine”

      Which is true.

      and would have excellent chances to be competitive

      It was very competitive, just not with Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren…

      would place in the upper side of the leaderboard

      Kubica was 10th in Germany, so strictly speaking that did happen.

      and would not be slower than the 2018 Williams F1 car.”

      It’ll take a braver statter than me to work that out, but I just checked a few random races and the 2019 car did lap quicker than the 2018 at the all the ones I checked.

      1. Thanks for checking those points there @neilosjames!

    12. Rokit has a strong case. I for one would NEVER even dream of utilizing the services or products of a company that sponsor a low performing F1 team. I prefer to only use products/services of sponsors that are on teams that get to the podium. There is obviously a 100% correlation between the performance of the team you sponsor and the quality of your service/product.

      Come on, what a bunch of donkeys. Get out of here!

    13. If this even makes it into a real court room I weep for humanity.

    14. If a team could guarantee a better than 10 position, wouldn’t that call into question the integrity of the sport, (any team, any sport, not just F1). Unless you have a performance clause specifically written into contract, I don’t see how they could win this case. Is Williams currently trying to get sponsorship money out of them. If so this might be a tactical suit, i.e. you sue us, we’ll sue you, our bank balance is bigger than yours so it will be cheaper for you to just walk away know.

      1. Yes, Williams has already sued Rokit and won over unpaid sponsorship fees. This is Rokit suing them back for more money, effectively claiming that Williams breached the contract first. It’s a very transparent effort to get out of paying what they owe. From what came out in the previous lawsuit, it sounds to me like Rokit never seriously had the money and are basically scammers like Rich Energy was.

    15. Even more TV fodder.
      Who does own Williams and who DOES own Dorilton.
      Either way I have great faith in the best justice system that money can buy.

    Comments are closed.