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Thu 1 Feb 2018 01:38 PM

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No more grid girls at Abu Dhabi, Bahrain F1 races

Formula 1 says pre-race practice does not fit with 'modern day societal norms'

No more grid girls at Abu Dhabi, Bahrain F1 races

Say goodbye to the grid girls at the Formula One Abu Dhabi and Bahrain Grands Prix. In fact, say goodbye to them all across the world, forever.

Formula 1, the premier racing sport that hosts races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi near the start and end of its season each year has announced it is abandoning the practice of hiring grid girls used for promotional tasks such holding driver name boards or umbrellas and podium girls to celebrate with the top three drivers at the end of the race. The ruling doesn’t apply to race queens that are often hired by the teams themselves.

Often donned in scant clothing and splattered with advertiser logos, walk-on grid girls at the F1 races “is clearly at odds with modern day societal norms”, the sport’s organisers said in a statement.

"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. We don’t believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula 1 and its fans, old and new, across the world,” the statement added.

US-based mass media company Liberty Media completed an $8 billion takeover of the F1 last year, ousting long-standing chief Bernie Ecclestone after 40 years at the organisation.

Ecclestone was responsible for popularising the sport across the world and enhancing the glamorous image of the F1 races.

“It’s a delicate topic, and there’s a tradition that’s continued. We're trying to respect all parties,” the managing director of F1 motorsports told BBC radio in December, in reference to the practice of grid girls. “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,”.

The decision makes the F1 the second sport to abandon walk-on girls following a similar decision by the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) last week. It has also sparked a debate among commentators and enthusiasts on whether grid girls have a place on the sidelines of sport.

The UK-based Womens Sports Trust commended the F1s new stance tweeting: “Thank you F1 for deciding to stop using grid girls. Another sport making a clear choice about what they want to stand for.”

Racing driving Karun Chandhok said the F1 could go a step further by “using the money saved from paying the ‘grid girls’ to make a small investment in getting more female drivers into the sport,” he said in a post on Twitter.

Others however have voiced disappointment with the decision.

Boxing promoter, and member on the board of PDC, Eddie Hearn, defended the use of ring card girls in boxing. “The PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) recently decided ban "walk on" girls and that was at the insistence of the broadcaster,” he wrote in GQ. “The ring card girls are doing a job which they've done for many, many years which is letting people knowBernie Ecclestone what round is coming up… in a glamorous way. 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."

The F1 has been working toward a number of changes, including experiment with men and children as mascots, negotiating with teams for louder and less complicated engines, as well as battery powered cars.

The new changes are meant to help bring the races back to the forefront of the Formula 1 experience, the organisers of the races have said. “We need to change,” Brawn said in an interview with Sky Sports earlier in the year. “I don’t accept when people say it’s always been like that in Formula 1. Why can’t there be a better way?”

The Formula 1 season this year begins on March 25 in Australia. The Bahrain Grand Prix will be held on April 8; the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be the last race of the year on November 25 at Yas Marina Circuit.

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