LONDON (AP) — Lewis Hamilton has a tendency to frustrate his Formula One team's sponsors by promoting or wearing rival brands.
As a fashion aficionado and bad-boy of the F1 paddock, the Mercedes driver doesn't like to play by the rules — especially when it comes to clothing. The world champion from Britain was turned away from the Wimbledon final last year when officials ruled that his floral shirt wasn't suitable for the royal box, where jackets and ties are mandatory for men.
But when sportswear giant Puma and clothing supplier Hugo Boss are paying to sponsor F1's dominant team, they expect star drivers to be wearing their products.
"It's constantly monitored," Caroline McGrory, Mercedes director of legal and commercial affairs, said at a Law In Sport seminar in London. "I always have to send stroppy messages on race weekends telling Lewis to stop wearing his bright yellow Louis Vuitton trainers when he should be wearing his Puma trainers."
McGrory also receives communications from Hugo Boss when Hamilton turns up at fashion shows for competing brands. Hamilton was pictured last year at an Alexander McQueen show in London, tweeted an image from a John Elliott show at New York Fashion Week and wrote an article for the BBC which promoted Stella McCartney, Valentino and Chanel but made no mention of Hugo Boss. Earlier this month, Hamilton was pictured attending Stella McCartney and John Galliano shows.
"He is very into his fashion, he is experimenting with his different styles at the moment, constantly going to fashion shows," McGrory said. "We get a phone call from Hugo Boss saying, 'Why is Lewis at an Alexander McQueen show?' He's doing that in his personal time. Actually he's allowed to do that.
"But it's a fine line because then we have to phone Lewis up and say, 'Actually can you please not tweet so much about all these other fashion designers. Just say something nice about Hugo Boss now and then.'"
Drivers don't like the fact they receive no additional cash from team sponsorships.
"It also blocks out the category for the driver to be able to go and do their own personal deal," McGrory added. "So they are often not that happy when we do a team deal when they are not making any money from it."
It's not just the drivers who have to be on-message with sponsors. Until last season Blackberry was a Mercedes sponsor, which meant team members couldn't be seen to be using Apple's iPhones.
"Even the bosses had their iPhones in their back pocket," McGrory said. "Publicly they had to have their Blackberrys."
Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports