Count legendary F1 drivers Sir Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda as being vehemently against Formula One’s decision to end the decades-old practice of “Grid Girls” and “Podium Girls” at F1 races, effective immediately.
“How dumb can someone be?” Lauda told Austria’s Der Standard. “It’s completely incomprehensible. … “Women have emancipated themselves and do very well at it. So this is a decision against women.”
Liberty Media acquired the entire Formula One organization last July. It announced several days ago that it was removing the Grid and Podium Girls because it felt their presence no longer presented the values Liberty wants to embody.
How dumb can someone be? It’s completely incomprehensible — Niki Lauda
“I think it’s a great pity to break a tradition such as this, which does Formula 1 but above all women no favors at all,” Lauda told Der Standard.
Lauda said he would like to see F1 be gender neutral and bring back the Grid Girls and Podium Girls and add men to the mix to offer complete diversity.
“I would not mind seeing grid boys next to the girls. Why not?” Lauda told Der Standard. “I want to encourage rather than diminish women. But once again it is men who have decided over the heads of women.”
Stewart agrees with Lauda, but also adds an interesting perspective that F1 should look to increase diversity – namely, attract female drivers to the series.
“The idea that grid girls put off women drivers is baloney,” Stewart told en.f1i.com. “If a racing team could find a female that’s going to get to the top in Formula 1, boy would they be paying attention.
“They’d be falling over themselves. Formula 1 would love to see a woman. If we had a women, the viewing numbers would go up.”
Like Lauda, Stewart agrees that Grid Girls and Podium Girls are within boundaries of decency and respect, rather than wearing overly-revealing clothes.
“The girls of this generation are not overly provocative,” Stewart told en.f1i.com. “They are very well presented. They are properly dressed. It’s not as if they are all in bikinis or something.”
Stewart said Liberty Media’s decision is likely due to the climate of sexual harassment backlash in the U.S.
“In America, you have the (Harvey) Weinstein thing and many more cases of, ‘He tried to do something’ or, ‘He rubbed against me’.
“Because of the Weinstein thing, I think Formula 1 has taken preventative medicine.”
But judging from comments from Stewart, Lauda and countless numbers of fans that oppose F1’s decision, that preventative medicine has a decidedly pretty bitter taste.
Will Liberty/F1 reverse course and bring Grid Girls and Podium Girls back for the upcoming season? Time will tell.