Let’s discuss: Grid Girls

Last month I read an article on ‘being a woman who loves racing.’ It was beautifully written; as if every subconscious thought I have ever had, had been written down and compiled in a way that would educate others in understanding the way a moderate gender-gap works. This gender-gap is not substantial, but it is prominent. It was prominent enough to warrant David Coulthard in stating his beliefs of women racers, or should I say lack of. Prominent enough for the former Formula 1 driver to say women aren’t as brutal as men because of their ‘mothering gene.’ (I dare him to direct that comment at Nicola Adams and see what happens.) It was prominent enough for Bernie Ecclestone to claim “women racers wouldn’t be taken seriously,” and for Sir Stirling Moss to voice his two cents.

We are not defined by gender. We are not defined by our age, or by our skin colour. We are not defined by where we come from, or what we believe in. We are not defined by the way that we look at the world, or for how we treat it. We are human. Humans with goals and ambitions, just as anyone else. And there’s a way to talk to other humans and a way to respect other humans; that undermining their ability, is factually wrong.

This argument is not about racers, however. That argument ended once we stopped asking if and started asking when; enter Tatiana Calderon, Sophia Floresch, Jamie Chadwick, Simona de Silvestro and Marta Garcia. When, could be sooner than you think.

The reason I mentioned the previous article, is because it sparked an attack on Motorsport.com to remove a photo album titled ‘Paddock Beauties.’ I don’t have a problem with grid girls. I can admire an attractive person, regardless of their gender. In fact, if I looked like – or had the body to be – a grid girl, then I would be one. Why not? The problem I had with this album is it did not just have grid girls, it had engineers, team personnel, circuit administrators and all sorts. As I said, I can appreciate an attractive person. I’m sure after seeing themselves in an album titled ‘Paddock Beauties’ they were flattered; but unlike grid girls, these girls haven’t signed up to a job to be judged aesthetically. So I agree with the notion to take them out, especially when the likes of Adrian Newey and Chase Carey feature in the generic albums; are they not ‘Paddock Beauties’ or what people believe ‘Paddock Beauties’ to be? Why does beauty, in this case, have to be gender specific?

All over twitter it spread; both the article and the petition. It went ‘viral’ as they say, and it did so within reason. Albeit (in my opinion) marginal reason. Grid girls are outdated. They are old-fashioned. Is there a need for them? Perhaps not. But is it any different from the girls in tight lycra at boxing matches or walk-on girls at darts tournaments, or how about the ‘flower girls’ at the Olympics? Sport is a spectacle. It is entertainment as well as a competition. It is important to cater to both areas or it becomes flat. Football is an exception because it’s fuelled by fierce rivalry and ‘hooliganism.’ Formula 1 however, has always fallen slave to ‘glitz and glamour’ – it’s why James Hunt was and is so popular. Because let’s be serious, out of all the World Champions F1 has had, is he the best one? Debatable. But he brought mass attention to a sport that had death lingering at every corner. He was a ‘celebrity’ whereas the others were just drivers. A bit like Lewis Hamilton. Had an F1 driver ever been to the Oscars and been as high profile as Hamilton before?

Grid girls are brought to Grands Prix via their agencies. An agency chosen by FOM or by the circuit informs all of its models of a potential job and they sign up to do it – just as you or I would for a job we desire. It’s a models dream to be scouted, to be headhunted – to be chosen. To work at a Grand Prix probably seems like a once in a lifetime experience – I too would grab it with both hands. But it’s their job to turn up and do what is required, not mine. Whether it be standing at a grid slot, clapping in the cool down room or even working in hospitality. It’s luck of the draw. But that doesn’t make them any less of a person.

In January, the NEC in Birmingham held the annual Autosport Show. If any of you reading this went, you perhaps might remember that opposite the F1 Racing Stand was the Azerbaijan Grand Prix booth. They were holding a competition to visit Baku for the GP and the people walking around the venue with the tablets for you to enter – were models, too. They weren’t wearing skimpy clothes or anything ostentatious (yes Pirelli, I am looking at you,) just white and purple polo shirts with jeans. I only know this because I recognised two of the girls walking around. They were on a programme called Britain’s Next Top Model and were in the final five. Funny, because one of the two girls I was routing for and was extremely peeved when she was sent home. But it just goes to show, that you can sign up to anything that your agency sends out but what you do and how you look is not down to the model, but down to the employer. Don’t shout at grid girls, shout at the circuit. Don’t look down on someone for doing their job – they are earning money to live just like the rest of us.

Grid girls do no harm. And if I’m being strictly honest and to-the-point for just a second, I think that if you are getting annoyed by a grid girl and believe she is being exploited (for something she signed up – and is paid to do) then you are easily offended. At no point is a grid girl asking for attention or scrutiny. Yes it’s old fashioned and yes it’s not really relevant in this day and age – but the agro that’s surfaced since the album got taken down is baffling. I’m basically dragging out that I don’t care what they do, it makes no difference to my viewing. I have watched F1 for what must be 10 years now and I can happily say that this year is already shaping up to be the best season I have ever watched – and we’re only two races in. We have a huge title fight on our hands, two teams gunning for it, two proven World Champions gunning for it and yet we’re sat moaning about grid girls. What a palaver.

What do you think?

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4 thoughts on “Let’s discuss: Grid Girls

  1. The Driving Line says:

    We really love this piece, well done. For what it’s worth, our two cents:

    Grid girls are cringe worthy. An embarrassing hangover of the objectification of women in the sport. A sport that needs to do an awful lot of growing up to re-align itself with mainstream perspectives. That said, it’s fairly harmless. It’s obviously prevalent in the other sports you mention. All for celebrating beauty but not in place of respect and equality. . .where’s the grid boys!?

  2. wordsareneverenough says:

    Interesting post and I am pretty much in agreement with everything you say. The only point I would add is that maintaining outdated practices like grid girls (or introducing them into darts?? Is this a thing now?) doesn’t do much except reinforce the decades-old message that cars and F1 are for men, and that women are men’s playthings rather than people in their own right.

    I’m not going to die in a ditch over it, partly because it’s too early on a Saturday to get too serious and discuss feminism, and partly because I like seeing an attractive woman as much as anybody else. But in a sport that is driving technology forward in the 21st century and trying to find new audiences, I find it baffling that it clings on to this old misogynistic practice. All they have to do is have male and female models mixed together – problem solved. I think this actually happened once (Spanish GP maybe) and DC mentioned it on the grid walk because he was so surprised.

  3. Richard says:

    I don’t have a problem with grid girls, if there is no harm being done and the girls are being treated correctly then keep calm and carry on. I do think it adds a bit more glamour to the spectacle. When the Monaco GP comes around the camera will be panning to the various yachts and rooftop swimming pools with bikini-clad ladies smiling and waving at the cameras. I don’t see why girls that are paid, treated well and look glamourous can’t be on the track adding to the GP’s experience.
    It’s only 5 mins of fame for the girls. The thing that is most important is the subsequent 2 hours of racing after.

    One thing I was talking about the other day with friends was the women coming out on the arms of darts players as they walk in. Yet the women darts players don’t have hunky men arm in arm with them…

  4. Heather Kenyon says:

    Well said.
    The peripherals of any international event are there to add to the spectacle and drama to attract and give attendees a memorable experience that makes them want more and feel they have taken part in something special, even historic . So every detail has glamour and expensive written all over it. But…the racing is what true fans care about.

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