Formula One will have no female models parading on the starting grid this season but will still be a sport of “glamour and mystique”, according to chairman and chief executive Chase Carey.
The American, who replaced octogenarian Bernie Ecclestone as supremo last year, told newspaper reporters that he personally would have retained the use of the models to hold up the drivers’ numbers before the race.
However he accepted that others had different views.
Formula One announced last week that it was ending the use of walk-on models because the custom “does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms”.
“I think the reaction has been what we expected,” Britain’s Daily Telegraph quoted Carey as saying. “Unsurprisingly, many long-term fans view it as part of the sport they grew up with and I respect that. Actually if you just left it up to me, personally, I like the grid girls,” he added. “But it’s not a decision for me, it’s a decision for fans.”
Carey said a significant number of people found the use of models to have “an exploitative element”, be outdated and inappropriate — even if the models themselves were proud to do the job. Those in favour generally felt less strongly about it.
“We’re going to maintain glamour,” said Carey, who was brought in by U.S.-based Liberty Media, the commercial rights holders.
“We’re going to continue to have pretty girls at races. I think it’s part of life, and it’s a part of what makes our sport special. It is a sport of glamour and of mystique. But I think you have to continue to evolve. In today’s world there are obviously different sensitivities to 10 or 12 years ago. I don’t think you can just be stubborn.”
Formula One has announced a new ‘Grid Kids’ programme to replace the models when the new season starts in Australia on March 25.