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.
ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).
“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.
“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”
For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.
“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.
“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”
Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.
“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.