It was a move that came as a serious shock to the team and to fans of the sport considering the 2019 season is halfway through.
A report suggested the tweet was either written or authorised by the drinks company’s CEO William Storey without the knowledge of shareholders.
One source told Motorsport.com: “The deal is not terminated and William has no authority to do so. The investors are trying to clear up the PR mess, but it’s business as usual.”
Shareholders in the company worked quickly to distance themselves from the “rogue” tweet and save the relationship between them and the F1 team.
The tweet on Wednesday morning from the official account read:
“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.”
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
Despite shareholders’ best efforts, Storey wasn’t finished there and took his actions one step further with a follow up tweet on Thursday.
“The ludicrous statement by minority shareholders cosy with @redbull & @WhyteBikes is risible. Their attempted palace coup has failed. I control all of the assets of @rich_energy & have support of all key stakeholders”.
SunSport tracked down Storey, who said it was the energy drink’s decision to end their sponsorship deal, which was only agreed at the start of the season.
“We terminated them. Unfortunate but logical decision in light of events,” he said.
“Haas (are) nice people but the car is going backwards.
“We are a superior product to Red Bull.
“A milkfloat at back of grid a disaster for us. End of.”
@rich_energy CEO @_williamstorey has commented "The ludicrous statement by minority shareholders cosy with @redbull & @WhyteBikes is risible. Their attempted palace coup has failed. I control all of the assets of @rich_energy & have support of all key stakeholders" #RichEnergy pic.twitter.com/1d32m1AELG— Rich Energy (@rich_energy) July 11, 2019
A statement from the shareholders contradicted the words of Storey as they reaffirmed their commitment to Haas with the announcement issued by Haas itself on behalf of its title sponsor, rather than via Rich Energy’s social media.
“The shareholders who own the majority of Rich Energy would like to clarify certain statements that have been circulated in the media from an unauthorised source,” the statement read.
“We wholeheartedly believe in the Haas F1 Team, its performance, and the organisation as a whole and we are fully committed to the current sponsorship agreement in place. We also completely believe in the product of Formula One and the platform it offers our brand.
“Clearly the rogue actions of one individual have caused great embarrassment. We are in the process of legally removing the individual from all executive responsibilities. They may speak for themselves but their views are not those of the company. The incident is very regrettable; we will not be making further comment on this commercially sensitive matter and will be concluding it behind closed doors.
“We wish to confirm our commitment to the Haas F1 Team, Formula One and to thank the Haas F1 Team for their support and patience whilst this matter is dealt with internally.”
The cars were painted black and gold with Rich Energy branding and the move was backed by a vigorous social media campaign.
Yet, after nine races, Haas are ninth in the constructors’ championship and are struggling to live up to those ambitions.
Haas team chief Guenther Steiner responded saying his F1 team would continue to display Rich Energy’s branding.
“I don’t want to put anybody in a difficult situation, but I cannot say anything (more) about it,” he told reporters.
“It’s part of the job,” said Steiner. “You can do without it, but it’s not like I’m staying up at night thinking about it. We get on with our job.”
He said that Rich Energy’s social media post had been “a surprise” to him.
“Rich Energy is currently the title partner of Haas F1 Team. I cannot comment further on the contractual relationship between our two parties due to commercial confidentiality.” – Guenther Steiner, Team Principal pic.twitter.com/egSltgGnAO— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) July 11, 2019
— with Ben Hunt, The Sun