Formula One abolishes ‘grid girls’

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PARIS (AFP) – Formula One has ended the practice of using scantily clad “grid girls” before races, the sport’s organisers Liberty Media said on Wednesday.

They said the practice of having the women milling about in the grid area before races was “clearly at odds with modern day societal norms”.

Darts took a similar decision this month, banning the women who walk on with the players before matches.

“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,” said Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations at Formula 1.

“While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 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.”

Bratches said the practice was not “appropriate or relevant to Formula 1 and its fans, old and new, across the world”.

The decision by F1 bosses to axe the grid girls, one of the sport’s long-standing pre-race traditions, is expected to bring similar pressure onto organisers of boxing and motorcycling who routinely use attractive women in event promotions.

The treatment and media image of women in sport has been drawn into sharp focus after the momentum sparked by the #MeToo campaign which has highlighted allegations of sexual misconduct in the world of entertainment and politics.

However, boxing promoter Eddie Hearn said Wednesday he will not remove ring card girls from his fights.

“The ring card girls have been a part of boxing history for many, many years. As far as I am aware, darts will still have dancers on stage performing, but the walk-on girls were not really necessary,” Hearn told GQ magazine.

“From a boxing point of view, we want to keep the traditions of the sport going and in my opinion it has nothing to do with sexism or feminism. It is just a part of boxing and until we are told otherwise.”

Women’s groups, however, backed the F1 decision.

“Thank you @F1 for deciding to stop using grid girls. Another sport making a clear choice about what they want to stand for,” tweeted @WomenSportTrust.

Drivers preferred to concentrate on the positive side of the F1 announcement on Wednesday.

“I don’t care, I’m married with the most beautiful girl on earth,” tweeted Haas team driver Romain Grosjean.

Former Indian F1 driver, Karun Chandhok tweeted: “Would be a good idea to use the money saved from paying the ‘grid girls’ to make a small investment in getting more female drivers into the sport…”

F1 has experimented with changes in its presentation in previous years.

At the 2015 Monaco Grand Prix, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel was less than impressed with the decision to employ “grid boys” instead of women.

“Why didn’t we have any grid girls today?” said German star Vettel. “What was that? You get there and park behind George or Dave. What’s the point?”

The new Formula One season begins on March 25 with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

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