This year’s Formula One season kicks off with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne – with a new austere and stiff-collared, strictly politically correct visage.
Gone are the pit lane poppies – or to introduce a bit of PC-speak, the grid girls – hurled into oblivion by the moving tides of the times, where the tsunami of sexual harassment claims and the very thought of using women, even beautiful young women willingly agreeing to fill a role as eye candy, has become increasingly repugnant to many.
“While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula One 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,” said Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations.
“We don’t believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula One and its fans, old and new, across the world.”
Perhaps Bratches has a point. Formula One’s use of young women goes back to the 1960s and Japan, advertising an oil company. Although promotional models were increasingly used in the 1970s and 1980s it was, according to a Radio 5 Live documentary in 2016, team owner Eddie Jordan who popularised them in the 1990s, The Guardian reports.
Wearing skimpy, often revealing costumes, holding umbrellas over the drivers on the grid, or simply smiling and looking decorative, the grid girls have been used to promote everything from beer to broadband.
But in this regard, Formula One were left stalled on the grid.
The Professional Darts Corporation announced it would cease the practice of “walk-on girls” – stylishly clad young women accompanying players onto the stage.
Its chairperson, Barry Hearn, was close to apoplectic.
“It’s probably going to get worse. In the PC world we live in; this is a sort of escapism back to wonderful ordinariness. It’s harmless, it’s entertaining to certain people.”
So, the grid and walk-on girls have been consigned to the dustbin of history. In exchange, the grid girls have now been replaced by grid kids and the politically correct ethics of this surely still have to go under the microscope.
Somehow, the switch doesn’t seem so kosher.