Rich Energy claims to have terminated its title sponsorship deal with the Haas F1 team, although the American team says the partnership remains in place.
The energy drinks company became Haas' title sponsor at the start of the year, claiming it would take the fight to Red Bull both on and off the track. The deal saw the cars painted black and gold and feature prominent Rich Energy branding on the engine cover, nose and front wing endplates.
The title sponsorship deal was followed up with a burst of activity on Rich Energy's increasingly vocal social media accounts, which regularly took aim at rivals Red Bull.
Using Twitter on the eve of the British Grand Prix, Rich Energy announced it had terminated its contract with the team, citing "poor performance" at the Austrian Grand Prix. The Haas cars qualified fifth and 11th and finished 16th and 19th after struggling with tyre issues in the race.
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 #F1 #richenergy pic.twitter.com/9mAt2dOnYu— Rich Energy (@rich_energy) July 10, 2019
However, after arriving in the Silverstone paddock with Rich Energy branding still on its trucks, motorhome and team wear, Haas disputed Rich Energy's claim.
"Rich Energy is currently the title partner of Haas F1 Team," team principal Guenther Steiner said in a statement on Thursday morning. "I cannot comment further on the contractual relationship between our two parties due to commercial confidentiality."
The news comes just one month after the Haas F1 team was asked to remove Rich Energy's stag logo from its cars because of a copyright dispute with Whyte Bikes, which has an almost identical logo. A ruling by the High Court allowed Whyte Bikes to lodge an injunction against Rich Energy to ensure it stopped using the logo, while also entitling Whyte to potential damages or a share of profits.
At the time, Rich Energy claimed the court ruling would not change its future marketing programs.