PARIS (AP) — “Grid kids” are replacing “grid girls” in Formula One as the motorsport series continues to change ahead of the new season.
F1 says youngsters from motorsport clubs, who for example are already competing in karting, will stand alongside drivers on the grid before races this season.
Monday’s announcement comes after the series last week ended the long-standing practice of using women on the grid, and on the podium with the top three drivers, because this no longer fits in with Formula One’s values and societal norms.
The latest initiative is joint venture by the FIA – motorsport’s governing body – and F1’s owners.
FIA President Jean Todt says “Grid Kids” gives “future champions of our sport the opportunity to stand alongside their heroes.”
Sean Bratches, F1’s managing director of commercial operations, adds: “What better way to inspire the next generation of Formula 1 heroes.”
F1 is owned by Liberty Media, which is changing the way the sport is run since taking over from former commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone in January 2017.
The season starts on March 25 at the Australian Grand Prix.
One of the Road to Indy’s most talented young drivers will climb another step up the development system ladder this season.
Kyle Kirkwood, the 2019 Indy Pro 2000 champion, has signed a contract to race for Andretti Autosport in the 2020 Indy Lights season. Kirkwood will drive the No. 28 car for the reigning championship team.
A native of Jupiter, Florida, 21-year-old Kirkwood has been incredibly successful in junior formulas over the last few years. He won the F4 US Championship 2017 and won both the F3 Americas and USF2000 titles in 2018.
Driving for RP Motorsport Racing, Kirkwood won 9 of 16 races in his maiden Indy Pro 2000 season last year, allowing him to win his fourth championship in three years and earn the Road to Indy scholarship.
“We are very excited about the addition of Kyle to our Indy Lights program,” Andretti Autosport CEO and Chairman Michael Andretti said. “We’ve followed Kyle’s career from when he started in 2018 with the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and have been impressed with his success in every race that led to his Indy Pro 2000 Championship last year. As a championship-caliber team, Kyle displays the desire and talent that we look for in our drivers and are excited to see him hit the track for the 2020 Indy Lights season.”
Kirkwood previously drove for Andretti in a two-day test session at Sebring International Raceway in December. He will make his official debut for the team in the season-opening doubleheader at St. Petersburg on March 14-15.
“I am ecstatic that I can now say I am competing in Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport this season,” Kirkwood said. “They have established a winning program in Indy Lights and we plan on carrying that reputation throughout 2020.
“We are a fantastic match for each other and our Sebring test in December proved that.”
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