Professional racing league Formula 1 will no longer showcase “grid girls” at events starting this year. Grid girls are models who stand around the racetrack holding umbrellas or drivers’ name-cards. Typically, they wear corporate-branded clothing for advertising purposes.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Managing Director of Commercial Operations at Formula 1 Sean Bratches said that the decision is an attempt to modernize the sport.
“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. “We don’t believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula 1 and its fans, old and new, across the world.”
A similar policy was recently enacted by the Professional Darts Corporation as well. Prior to that decision on January 27, professional darts events featured “walk-on girls;” models who performed a similar function to grid girls.
Fan reactions have been polarized, with many praising Formula 1 for making an important decision and others lamenting the loss of grid girls. Most of the people opposed to the edict decried the corrosive effects of feminism and political correctness on sports culture. They also seem to be really concerned about the grid girls’ employment prospects.
People in support of Formula 1’s new policy think it’s an important step towards combating the historical objectification of women, especially in a racing world dominated by male drivers. Only two women have ever raced in the Formula 1 series; the most recent was Italian Lella Lombardi in 1976. Driver Jamie Chadwick, who is 19 years old, hopes to be the first woman to reach Formula 1 in the last 40 years.
By doing away with the grid girls, Formula 1 is trying to modernize. If Jamie Chadwick has her way, women will return to the track soon — not as grid girls, but as competitors.