Formula One’s 'outdated' use of grid girls under 'strong review'

Mark Molloy
Is it time to scrap grid girls?  - AFP

Formula One is reviewing the use of grid girls in the sport after mounting criticism that the tradition is “outdated” and “tarty nonsense”.

Ross Brawn, F1’s managing director of motorsports, told BBC Radio 5 live the “delicate topic” is “under strong review”.

“We’re trying to respect all parties,” he said. “There’s a lot of people [who] respect the tradition of the grid girls and there’s people who feel that it has become a bit dated, so we’re addressing that.”

Grid girls, or promotional models, have been associated with motorsport since the Sixties and today their official role involves holding up the grid numbers of each racer and standing on the podium after each event.  

However, critics argue that using women as “decorative additions” to sporting events is demeaning and sexist.

Silverstone boss Stuart Pringle told 5 live’s Grid Girls programme he believes it is “outdated”, adding: “Lycra can stay in the 1970s and 80s for me, I don't want any of that tarty nonsense.”

“Our fans and spectators and customers come to Silverstone and think that because its happening at Silverstone it must be Silvertone’s decision as they think quite a lot of it is down to us, when remarkably little is, on occasion.

“There is a perception that this is Silverstone’s view, but actually we think it's an egalitarian world and I don’t want my daughter growing up thinking that lycra is what she ought to aspire to.”

Grid girls were discarded from Australia’s V8 Supercars Championship in 2016, while ‘grid guys’ were introduced for the Monaco Grand Prix in 2015. And in 2015 British Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton was criticised for pouring champagne over a model at the Chinese Grand Prix.

Chase Carey, F1’s chief executive officer, told the BBC he wants to “get as many points of views as possible” to “make a decision right for the future of the sport”.

Grid Girls during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix in Mexico   Credit: Getty 

“Is it something from the past, or is it something distinct that should be part of the future?” he said. “I don't think it will be a personal decision for me. I may have a point of view but, when you have a sport, you are dealing with teams and a large eco-system and a large fanbase that is very passionate. There is never going to be a consensus, but a set of views.”

Sociology professor Karen Farquharson argues: “It sends the message that it’s OK for women to be decorative and have sideline positions with no power or input. That’s not OK.”

The BBC Radio 5 live programme Grid Girls will be broadcast at 20:00 GMT on Thursday, 14 December.