The long-standing McLaren Formula One team’s sponsorship deal with Brazilian oil company Petrobras looks set to be brought to an official end within a matter of days, Autosport has learned.
Petrobras, which is 64% owned by the Brazilian government through direct and indirect means, announced last year that it would be tying up with McLaren from the start of this season with a long-term technical partnership, the report said.
But in May, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro took to social media to reveal that he had ordered the original five-year partnership to be called off.
“In 2018 Petrobras signed an advertising contract of R$782m with McLaren, valid for five years,” Bolsonaro tweeted from his official account.
“At the moment, the company, by decision of my government, seeks a way to terminate the contract.”
It is understood that discussions between McLaren and Petrobras to end the deal have been ongoing since although, as recently as the Russian Grand Prix, McLaren CEO Zak Brown was openly discussing the relationship having a future.
It’s believed that Petrobras would be expected to pay a termination fee to McLaren, should the contract be broken.
“As far as fuel and lubricant, we have a partnership with Petrobras, and provisions in our agreement to be able to continue down that path,” he said when asked about its plans.
The situation now appears to have moved on with papers published by Brazil’s Ministry of the Economy this week claiming that the deal is to be ended.
The document, which ran through the government’s financial plans, said: “An unjustifiable Petrobras sponsorship agreement for the McLaren Formula 1 team — worth £163million (US$211.5 million) — has been terminated.”
Despite the indications from Brazil, McLaren has declined to elaborate further. As per the original contract, the Petrobras sticker not only was placed on the cars but also the team merchandise including the driver overalls.
A spokesperson for the team said: “Such matters are commercially confidential and therefore we are not able to comment further at this time.”
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. currently sits sixth in the Formula One driver’s standings, while teammate Lando Norris is in 12th. The team is also a respectable fourth in the Constructor’s championship.
According to Wikipedia, McLaren Automotive is a British automotive manufacturer based at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, Surrey.
In July 2017, McLaren Automotive became a 100% owned subsidiary of the wider McLaren Group.
Following Bolsonaro’s comments on Twitter, one of Brazil’s biggest newspapers, Globo News, quoted Petrobras’ company president Roberto Castello Branco, as stating that it makes little sense for the company to sponsor McLaren.
“It does not make sense for a company from an emerging, lower-income economy country to fund a competition team from a developed country,” he said.