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FORMULA ONE announced yesterday that “grid kids” will be used this season after the sport abolished its long-standing association with grid girls.
F1 owners Liberty Media denounced the long-standing practice of using female models before grands prix as “at odds with modern-day societal norms.”
The grid kids scheme, which will come into effect at the F1 season-opening race in Melbourne next month, will be comprised of competitors already in the junior categories of motor racing.
The youngsters will be selected by local motor racing authorities and F1 bosses hope the change will be of greater appeal to the sport’s younger fans.
“This will be an extraordinary moment for these youngsters,” said F1 US commercial chief Sean Bratches.
“Imagine, standing beside their heroes, watch as they prepare to race and to be there, alongside them in those precious few minutes just before the start.
“What an unforgettable experience for them and their families. An inspiration to keep driving, training and learning so that they can dream of one day being there themselves. What better way to inspire the next generation of Formula One heroes.”
Jean Todt, president of the F1 governing body FIA, added: “Formula One is the pinnacle of motor sport and the dream of every young racer competing in the junior series that make up the FIA single-seater pyramid, from karting all the way to F1.
“We are therefore delighted to bring that dream a little closer by giving the future champions of our sport the opportunity to stand alongside their heroes on the grid in the build-up to the race start. For the wider FIA, this is an excellent initiative.”
The tradition of using grid girls, which has gone hand in hand with the sport for a number of decades, was scrubbed from the F1 calendar with immediate effect last week.
Liberty Media’s decision to remove the female models follows in the footsteps of the Professional Darts Corporation, which also announced that women would no longer escort male players to the stage.
The overhaul by Liberty, the US media conglomerate which took over the sport in January 2017, will apply to other motor racing events that take place at a Formula One grand prix weekend.
Formula E, the FIA-backed electric series, also uses young people coming through the motor sport ranks to hold the grid placards.
Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was among those critical of removing the grid girls, but three-time world champion Jackie Stewart recognised the need for change.
“Sometimes it is better to take preventative medicine and that is what Formula One is doing,” Stewart said.
“Every day I read about a different scandal. F1 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.”
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