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.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III