F1 to stop using ‘grid girls’

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Formula One has abolished its long-standing association with grid girls after the sport’s American owners declared the practice as “at odds with modern day societal norms”.

The tradition, which has gone hand-in-hand with the sport for a number of decades, will be scrubbed from the F1 calendar with immediate effect.

Liberty Media’s decision follows in the footsteps of the Professional Darts Corporation, which earlier this month announced that women would no longer escort male players to the stage.

The overhaul by Liberty, the American media conglomerate which took over the sport in January last year, will also apply to other motor racing events that take place at a grand prix weekend.

“Over the last year we have looked at a number of areas which we felt needed updating so as to be more in tune with our vision for this great sport,” Sean Bratches, F1’s American commercial chief, said.

“While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula One Grands Prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms.

“We don’t believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula One and its fans, old and new, across the world.”

Sir Jackie Stewart, the three-time world champion who remains heavily involved in the sport, understands the reason for change.

“Sometimes it is better to take preventative medicine and that is what Formula One is doing,” Stewart, 78, said.

“Every day I read about a different scandal and F1 and it’s blue-chip partners do not need to be involved with that. I don’t think it is a shame or a controversial decision and I understand what Liberty are saying. These are different times that we are living in.”

A spokesperson for Liberty confirmed women would also be removed from the podium celebrations, with the sport now in discussion with circuit promoters and partners as to how the grid girls will be replaced.

Formula E, the FIA-backed electric series, uses young people who are coming through the motor sport ranks to hold the grid placards.

At the Monaco Grand Prix in 2015, local organisers opted to have ‘grid boys’ instead of ‘grid girls’. Sebastian Vettel, the four-time world champion, joked afterwards: “Why didn’t we have any grid girls today?” You get there and park behind George or Dave. What’s the point?”

Other sports still employ glamorous women under the guise of entertaining the crowd before and during events.

Boxing and UFC employ ‘ring girls’ while cheerleaders are prevalent in American sports, with teams and franchises having their own professional cheerleading squads.

Cycling is another sport that had traditionally used ‘podium girls’ to pose with race winners and plant a kiss on their cheeks.

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