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F1: Women back on the grid at Monaco GP, but in a different role

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MONACO (AP) — Women will make a return of sorts to the Formula One grid at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, although not in the previous “grid girls” role now discarded.

Instead of women standing in front of each car, holding up the driver’s race number, men and women representing watchmaker Tag Heuer will take photos of the drivers for social media purposes. There will be a man and a woman for each driver and they will also report fans’ comments back to drivers.

Early this year, F1 ended the long-standing practice of using “grid girls.”

The tradition saw women dressed in uniform walking onto the grid shortly before the race start, holding up placards. Women would also stand alongside the top three drivers on the podium after the race. F1 managing director for commercial operations Sean Bratches said in January the practice wasn’t appropriate anymore, a move which met with more approval outside of F1 itself.

Michel Boeri, the president of Monaco’s Automobile Club, disagreed with the decision.

“Our American friends considered that employing young women to hold up placards contributes to demeaning (women),” Boeri said in local newspaper Nice-Matin. “Our hostesses come from modelling and communication colleges. They are elegant and in the image of Monaco.”

But French driver Romain Grosjean welcomed the decision to scrap it.

“When it was removed, I thought it was a good thing for women in the 21st Century because they were not used as just a board holder,” Grosjean said.

However, he remains a rare disapproving voice.

Four-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton welcomes the return, although he expressed reservations.

“I think women are the most beautiful thing in the world. When we pull up to the grid and there are beautiful women on the grid, that’s the Monaco Grand Prix, that’s a lovely thing,” the British driver said this week. “But I definitely don’t think that we should ever be supporting or pushing these women in general to feel uncomfortable. And if they are, then we shouldn’t do it.”

Sebastian Vettel is adamant the practice should continue, even claiming to know how women feel.

“I think they enjoyed what they were doing,” the German driver said. “I’m sure if you ask any grid girl on Sunday if they’re happy to stand there, their answer will be `Yes.’ It speaks a little bit for our times that sometimes there’s a lot of noise for nothing.”

As a one-off in 2015, the Monaco GP replaced “grid girls” with “grid boys” – men in short jeans – in a move scoffed at by Vettel.

“You get there and park behind George or Dave,” the German driver said at the time. “What’s the point?”

Last month, the Russian GP also considered bringing “grid girls” back, with Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak saying “If we can reach an agreement we will revive this tradition.”

F1 team principals have joined in the debate.

“It’s up to the track also to decide if they want to put grid girls on,” Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur said Thursday, smiling. “I think it’s a good move.”

His views were largely echoed by Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

“I think it was not discriminatory at all, it was part of the history of Formula 1,” Wolff said. “So I’m happy to see them back on the grid in Monaco.”

Horner, whose team has Tag Heuer as a sponsor, added: “So long as it’s done in an appropriate manner, then it’s ultimately down to the promoter.”

After thrilling ‘Evel Live,’ Travis Pastrana back in action this weekend

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It’s been 2 ½ months since Travis Pastrana channeled his inner Evel Knievel in “Evel Live” in Las Vegas on July 8.

The legendary motorcycle stunt rider and rallycross driver successfully replicated three of Knievel’s most infamous career motorcycle jumps, capped off by jumping – some would call it flying – over the fountain at Caesar’s Palace.

All without a scratch or any type of malfunction.

“It was awesome,” Pastrana told NBC Sports’ MotorSportsTalk in an exclusive interview. “Obviously, to do something live, a live stunt which hasn’t been done, is cool.

“And just the nostalgia, to live a day in Evel Knievel’s boots, literally, was awesome. To have the whole Knievel family out there, his three kids, and my mom and dad all out there, it was just a real awesome day.

“And to have the chance to jump the Caeser’s (Palace) fountain, probably the most infamous and iconic stunt location in the world. All that added up to be a really, really great event and I think it came off really well.”

MORE: Travis Pastrana successfully completes all three of Evel Knievel’s most famous jumps

MORE: Travis Pastrana’s goal to replicate 3 of Evel Knievel’s most famous jumps: ‘Try not to die’

LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 08: Travis Pastrana peforms during HISTORY’s Live Event “Evel Live” on July 8, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for HISTORY)

Pastrana spoke at length about the logistics of setting up the three jumps in two different venues, getting from Point A in one part of Las Vegas to Point B (Caesar’s), and dealing with potential weather concerns.

“That’s the greatest part about Nitro Circus (Pastrana’s company) is having an amazing team so that when an idea like this comes up, we can make it turn into fruition and a possibility,” Pastrana said. “The idea came up less than a year before it was pulled off.

“I couldn’t have been more proud of my team and all the guys there. When we called Caesar’s, we thought for sure they were going to say no. Then they said yes.

“Then we talked to the Knievel family and they said, ‘this is going to be great. Go ahead.’ It was like, be careful for what you ask for because it just happened. And then we had a bike just like Evel’s, although a more modern day (version).”

While Pastrana and his team pulled off everything seamlessly, there was a lot of worry and concern, especially on Pastrana’s part, since he was the focal point of the stunt, which was televised live.

“I didn’t sleep at all the night before,” he said. “And then everything just worked out. It’s what you hope for, for sure. But with every race, every event, everything, there’s always something like a $5 part break in a half-million dollar vehicle. Something always goes wrong.

“The fact that everything went as well as it could – I mean, they were calling for 80 percent chance of rain with wind gusts up to 60 mph (on the day of the event).

“And the storm kind of went 20 miles south, it didn’t get that windy, and you have to think to yourself, ‘Man, that was a live event, and representing Evel Knievel, the stunt man of Vegas, you’ve gotta go for it.’”

Pastrana vowed to perform the stunts rain or shine. But if it had rained, he had his doubts that he’d be able to pull it off.

“Successfully, probably not,” the 34-year-old Pastrana said with a laugh. “That was the thing, what I had said coming up to it.

“When Evel got to Wembley Stadium (to do his infamous 13-bus jump in 1975), he said, ‘Look, the busses are bigger than they are in the U.S., I miscalculated the distance, this bike is not going to go as fast as I thought it would go. I’m not going to make it, but I told you guys I was going to put on a show, and I’m going to deliver.’

“That’s why I wanted to be the guy on this particular stunt. I can’t tell someone else when there are bad conditions or the bike is overheating or something else is going wrong to go, but with Nitro Circus and our history, and his family there, it just has to go, no matter what happens. We were just real fortunate and lucky that it all worked out.”

Pastrana jumped the fountain at Caesars Palace to wrap up a night of replicating three of Evel Knievels most infamous career jumps. Photo: Getty Images.

While he certainly enjoyed doing them, the Annapolis, Maryland native said it’s unlikely he’ll have any more Evel-like jumps in his career.

“This was a perfect storm,” he said. “Everything was just lined up on this one. For me, that was not my last hurrah, if you will, but as far as doing a big stunt, I did my biggest stunt I’ve ever done last year with the double back-flip 360 and kind of realized, you know what, I’ve been lucky long enough, let me just focus on my family.

“But then this came up, and I was like, ‘Put me in, coach.’”

Pastrana returns to the track this Saturday and Sunday for the third annual Nitro World Games at the Utah Motorsports Campus (formerly known as Miller Motorsports Park) near Salt Lake City.

Saturday will feature Nitro Rallycross (NRX) Qualifiers and Heat Races, including some of the biggest names in the sport including Pastrana and rival Ken Block having some “unfinished business,” as well as Scott Speed, Tanner Foust, Patrik Sandell, Steve Arpin, Mattias Ekstrom, Chris Atkinson and Timmy Hansen.

Pastrana and Ken Block have some ‘unfinished business’ in this weekend’s Nitro World Games near Salt Lake City. Photo: Nitro Circus.

On Sunday, the action includes the FMX Best Trick Finals, NRX Semi-Finals and Finals and FMX Quarterpipe Finals.

Among FMX Quarterpipe competitors are Colby Raha, Jarryd McNeil, Axell Hodges, Elijah Aldoff, Corey Creed and Kohl Denney.

And among riders and drivers taking part in the Best Trick Finals are defending champ Harry Bink, along with Pat Bowden, Christian Meyer, Josh Sheehan, William Van den Putte, Blake Williams, and Davi Johnson.

“Having the opportunity to kind of reinvent the sport for the American audience and for the drivers – I mean, we have Talladega-sized berms – right and left turns, dirt and pavement, huge jumps, there’s a triple-crossover,” Pastrana said. “World Games is basically the bigger of international sports. We take the most exciting sports, the biggest air, the least technical … and try to make it even bigger.

“I couldn’t be more excited. I think it’s going to be real exciting for the drivers, lots of options. It’s not a track that’s just built for a one-off event, it’s going to be a permanent place here so people can come out here and practice and keep getting better like European tracks do. So it should be good.”

Pastrana said Nitro Circus does over 70 live shows around the world per year, but he’s also excited about preparing for a lengthy residency in Las Vegas beginning next March.

Given all the things he’s accomplished over his career, Pastrana was asked if there’s anything remaining on his bucket list that he still hopes to do.

“I love racing, I love competing and I feel like I’ve competed in almost everything all over the world,” he said. “But the Daytona 500 is something … and I’ve never done a drag race. So those two would be pretty cool, wouldn’t they?”

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