Behind the headlines – The role and end of the gird girls

Behind The Headlines Features

Liberty Media announced this week that the sport was banning the use of grid girls this season. The reason why they have done this is that they believe that “the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula 1 and its fans, old and new, across the world.”

I agree with Liberty, I do not see the need for women standing holding grid numbers in sexual outfits. For me personally, it does not appeal to me because it is not something I find attractive or I feel is right in 2018. It is degrading really.

However, on the other side, you have the traditionalists who say grid girls are part of ‘the show.’ Grid girls were introduced in the 1960’s and have had many different roles, hold up the grid number for their racer on the grid before races. They also welcome and cheer the top three onto the podium at each race.

The girls work very hard they are often their early in the morning working to get their hair and makeup right. They also have to brave the weather too standing on the grid holding flags and the driver’s numbers. While they are not allowed to interact with the crowds or the drivers, they are just stood holding a flagpole, looking gorgeous.

I believe that women are growing in confidence to say we have had enough. We hear daily reports of high profile sexual abuse and harassment across the world. Women should be part of Formula One as drivers, engineers and managers not as a glammed up women to hold numbers.

I remember covering an incident in 2015, when in Shanghai when Lewis Hamilton sprayed the champagne in the face of the woman on the podium. He came under attack from Object, which campaigns against sexism condemned. Object campaigns against on media sexism and ‘sex object culture’.

That prompted condemnation from some critics in Britain and Germany as well as on Chinese social media. But the sport has been like an old boys club for decades, things are changing we had female bosses and drivers in recent years.

Grid boys have been used in Monaco in 2015, but the way Sebastian Vettel jokingly reacted sums up why we do not need grid girls. In the press conference, he said, “Why didn’t we have any grid girls today? What was that? F—! You get there and park behind George or Dave. What’s the point?”

I feel that statement gives the feminists the right to attack the use of grid girls. If a woman has to stand there holding a number in an outfit which shows there body off, when/if we get a female drive should there be a male model stood in his underwear holding the number?

I know that’s an extreme example. But this is about image.

Former grid girl Melinda Messenger told Channel 5 “I actually think this is a good thing. I think it is a sign that we’re heading in a really positive direction. I personally had a great time, I made some good money out of it, I had fun but really.”

“Looking back, essentially all I was there for was decoration and I think that’s the issue. I think we are changing and we’re moving forward.”

Writing for the BBC, Mercedes Ambassador and Channel 4’s Susie Wolff says it was not something that offended her. ‘Neither was it something I saw as one of Formula 1’s priorities to change to allow the sport to evolve.’

Wolff recalled in DTM chatting to a grid girl, who was a medical student who found it fascinating to be so close to the racing car and on the grid just before the race start. She added ‘You can say, on a positive note, that the owners of F1 have made a clear statement with their decision’

Grid girls for me are something that is part of the sport, but Formula One has changed over the years as it moves into the future. We often talk about regulation changes, at the moment we are looking at engine regulations.

However, the role of women is I feel part of the wider debate we have had since Liberty took over a year ago. I think that as they say the removal of ‘grid girls’ is to allow the celebration of culture and the arts, which I think should still involve women.

I also remember Bernie Ecclestone’s views on women; I do not think we would have this debate if he was in charge still.


Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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