grid girls
grid girls

Grid kids replace pit babes in Formula One

PROMOTIONAL models, usually attractive young women, have for decades been used to promote products, services and major sporting events.

It’s a thriving worldwide industry that since the 1960s also featured in motorsport with grid girls adding sparkle to Formula 1 Grands Prix.

Known as grid girls in the Western world, they’re also called Race Queens in Japan, Pit Babes in Britain, Pretties in Thailand and Racing Models in Korea.

But that came to an end in 2018, shortly after Liberty Media bought the sport from CVC Capital Partners and apparently caved in to the demands of the “PC brigade.”

However, Liberty also bought MotoGP, the motorcycle equivalent for Formula 1 – and retained the services of the glamour girls.

The reason given for axing the girls from Formula 1 was because it did not ‘resonate with its brand values and the girls were at odds with modern day societal norms.’

So they’re OK at MotoGP, but not at Formula 1?

Are four-wheeled events snootier than those with two wheels, or are the millions of fans more protected against whatever resonance and societal norms were perceived?

For a media company, Liberty has been very quiet about the matter.

But some of the grid girls have been vocal in being booted out of a job that many of them had been doing for years.

High profile models who have worked in the industry, including Kelly Brook and Jodie Marsh, came forward to blast the decisions and rubbish the claims that the jobs are sexist and demeaning to women.

Former grid girl Olivia Attwood defended the job that launched her career, saying she first started at 19 and did it for five or six years on and off.

“It was a job that totally changed my life,’ she said.

“No one held a gun to my head to do it, I did it because I wanted to and my experience was entirely positive – I honestly don’t have a negative word to say about it.

“I’m all for feminism, I’m all for equal rights – but I don’t think we should be told what defines feminism. This is going against it – you’re telling a woman they can’t do something.

“I think it’s awful and I think it’s this whole “PC” world we’re living in now taken too far.

“I think Formula 1 did this before people start knocking on their door.

“They’re taking the fun, glamour and extravagance out of absolutely everything .

“I was part of a real family and I got to mix with all sorts of people and travel the world. I was flying to different countries and it was amazing.

“We had a team and fan base, we’d do calendars and signings, we were more like personalities.

“The atmosphere is amazing; I remember going on the grid at Le Mans, really iconic venues, and you’ve got all the icons there, the President walks the track and I met so many people, like A List celebrities and it’s really exciting.

“All the girls are so lovely and you really become like part of a team – you become part of a family, with all the mechanics and the drivers.

“There’s nothing sleazy about it. I don’t feel like I was hit on by any drivers or riders, it was a real mutual level of respect – we were there to represent the brand and the team, and once we were done we left, and that was it.

“You can’t say that it’s degrading to women – if it makes one woman feel degraded it makes another woman feel empowered. I would be more than happy for my daughter to be a grid girl, I thought it was fun and it’s just harmless, it really is.

“We had a say in our outfits all the time. To be honest, I worked really hard on my body and I was proud to show it off.

“We’d also dress according to what country we were in and what culture we were around. If we went to Qatar or Dubai we’d dress completely differently to how we would dress at Silverstone.”

Melissa James, another former grid girl, said she loved her ‘dream job.’

“You’re not just standing there on the concrete.

“You’re meeting fans, you’re posing with photos and, because you’ve got the branding on your clothes, it’s going out on Instagram.

“Saying that we’re just a pretty face is absolutely ludicrous. We’re saleswomen at the end of the day. We need to learn how to talk to people and get people on board with the product.”

She’d been a promotional model for eight years and said she earned well above the UK’s minimum wage.

She said that thanks to her job, she was able to buy her own property and learnt invaluable sales skills – which have since helped to become a manager for a popular UK bar chain.

She said some of the outfits grid girls sometimes wore seemed to cause the most uproar among critics, with the catsuit, made of lycra, the main source of offence.

“I might be wearing an outfit that’s very particular to that job, but you are essentially a saleswoman,” she said.

For Formula1, it means giving big-brand sponsors as much exposure as possible.

Another grid girl, Rebecca Cooper, has also been vocal on the matter.

“It’s political correctness gone mad,; she said.

“Where will it end? No grid girls, no cheerleaders, female singers being told what to wear on stage, no models in magazines.

“I’ll fight for my right to choose what I wear, where I work and to keep a job I love.”

Former Formula 1 driver and Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi also came to their defence.

“What happens if you extend this logic to cheerleaders and catwalk models?” he asked.

“Each person has their own interests, their own way of choosing what they want to do.

“I think by abolishing grid girls, the only thing you do is take jobs off 20 girls who could have been there.”

Mercedes’ Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff says the lack of female presence in the sport won’t go unnoticed, adding that women need to be encouraged to join the motorsport industry in other ways.

“We need to get more females into the sport in marketing, communications, engineering and as racing drivers. We at Mercedes will try to support that as much as we can,” he said.

But wait . . . Liberty and the sport’s governing body, the FIA, have an alternative:

They announced that ‘grid kids’ will now replace the women, making the pre-race ceremony “more relevant and interesting for fans, especially the younger ones.”

The children will be competitors in karting or junior categories. Some will also have an opportunity to stand alongside the drivers on the starting grid.

Gosh, that should get the crowd excited.

However, while they’re still allowed, grid girls, race queens, pit babes, pretties, racing models and grid girls can still be seen at MotoGP events.


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