Defying New F1 Owners, Monaco Grand Prix Keeps Its ‘Grid Girls’

(Bloomberg) -- Leave it to Monaco to defy Formula 1.

In a statement issued on Thursday to F1i.com, Michel Boeri, president of the Automobile Club de Monaco, said so-called “grid girls” will be present on the starting line during the Monaco Grand Prix next month, apparently the result of a deal.  

The announcement came in direct opposition to F1 parent company Liberty Media Corp., which announced last year that it would abolish the practice of using young female hostesses during F1 events.

“We’ve had no problems with Liberty Media, except for the grid-girl issue,” said Boeri. “They’re pretty, and the cameras will be on them once again.”

News of the initial “no-grid-girl” ruling had caused deep divisions among spectators and enthusiasts. Some saw it as long overdue in a dated, dying sport that objectifies and commoditizes women, while others considered it a knee-jerk reaction to appease draconian standards of political correctness in the current #MeToo cultural climate.  

Boeri, who hosts F1’s most glamorous event, apparently fell into the latter camp.

“Our American friends assume that it could hurt the feminine feelings when employing young women to carry signs,” Boeri told Monaco-Matine, a local newspaper. “Our hostesses complete model and PR schools. They perform during the Grand Prix at events that are in line with their training. And they are paid for it.”

Requests for comment from U.S.-based Liberty Media have yet to be returned.  But the company is neither the first nor the only sports-related company to end such practices.

Last year, Spain’s Vuelta a Espana cycling race ended its habit of placing female “hostesses” on the podium with race winners, substituting fully dressed men and women. Recently the Professional Darts Corp. also stopped using “walk-on girls” to accompany male competitors to the stage at its tournaments. The World Endurance Championship, which hosts the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans and 24 Hours of Daytona races, did away with them in 2015. 

Liberty Media has since announced it would use “Grid Kids” to help in pre-race ceremonies.

Some have applauded the decision as savvy. 

“I think it’s a bit archaic, to be honest,” Geoff Day, the longtime former director of communications for Mercedes-Benz AG and a former Buckingham Palace staffer, said of the practice. “Culturally, having the grid girls in their skimpy outfits may have been relevant in the 1960s, but what kind of message does that send today? If F1 is trying to make itself relevant and authentic to a modern audience, using kids and young drivers makes it far more relevant.”

For others, kids don’t exactly cut it. 

“The [grid girls] look pretty and are part of the Formula 1 landscape,” Boeri said. “Why in the world should I stop 30 girls from earning a living?”

To contact the author of this story: Hannah Elliott in New York at helliott8@bloomberg.net.

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