Bob McMurray: Formula 1 decision seems totally off the grid
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To be honest, I didn’t want to write anything about what has become one of the polarising issues surrounding Formula 1.
New engines, new regulations, new initiatives to help fans understand the sport better? New innovations perchance that make the racing better?
Ferrari leaving the sport and SsangYong joining perhaps?
Nope, none of that.
The sport’s biggest talking point for years is all to do with girls holding signs on the end of a stick to indicate where a car should be positioned on the grid.
Opinions come from the sports world, the political world, fans and activists.
Everybody has an opinion. Everybody, too, has a choice and I applaud those people who say they won’t or don’t watch Formula 1 and other sports because of the promo girls.
Well done. If you don’t like something then don’t do it.
On the other hand, most people, like me, do not let that bother them and continue to watch with hardly a noticeable twitch at those people, usually female, holding the signs.
And because apparently the word ‘female’ as with words such as ‘girls’ and ‘women’ could now apparently be considered ‘sexist’, I shall refer to this particular occupation as a ‘grid person’.
I fail to see why Formula 1 grid persons should now be the target of what seems to be a minority of people who are now seemingly offended enough to encourage their employers to dismiss them and to disestablish their positions.
I have never yet met any of the ‘persons’ who have been forced to do the job.
It is a job. A contracted, paying, fully clad employment that often leads on to other highly paid work. And now that high-profile job is being taken away from them because, it seems, the will of a minority demands it.
I am not sure I understand how a person who applies to do a job, gets paid and enjoys doing the job, can possibly be considered ‘exploited’.
If, in Formula 1, it was the natural order of things, like the disappearance of gear levers, fat tyres, cork helmets and sewing patches on overalls and all the other things that have been lost in the mists of time, I could understand it.
If there is a better or more efficient, or even more technically informative alternative then I could understand it. Things change.
But then it seems as if the removal of these board-holding persons, and presumably that will include any persons of the opposite gender, is being trumpeted as a victory for feminism and to hell with the rights of the women themselves.
Shouldn’t these same people be standing up for the rights of these persons for self-determination?
According to the owners of Formula 1 “We feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern-day societal norms. We don't believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula 1 and its fans, old and new, across the world.”
I am not sure just what that means in an industry that oozes glamour with private jets and excess aplenty with participants who trumpet to the world lifestyles that surely cannot reflect those same ‘brand values’.
Not to mention the ‘brand values’ of having events in ‘hotbeds’ like China, Russia, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.
Formula ‘E’ have had children involved as ‘grid kids’ at the beginning of their events, so how long will it be before somebody cries “child exploitation”?
What a sad world we live in.
I shall leave the last words to the British Touring Car Championship’s Speedworks Motorsport co-owner Amy Dick explaining the role of their own grid person at a BTCC meeting.
A job she says is more than just wearing Lycra and standing in front of the team’s Toyota Avensis.
“Having a beautiful girl in an equally striking outfit in front of our car creates added attention, glamour and exposure for our customers and sponsors alike,” says Dick.
“There is nothing seedy, exploitive or sexist about it. The girls work for us very much on their own terms and have input into what they are going to wear and how they promote the team.
“Our grid girls are independent business women. When they are working for us they are brand ambassadors who have the responsibility of representing our team, driver and the brands involved.
“They are commercially savvy through social media, on-event hosting etc. In fact, they become an integral part of the promotional team as a whole throughout the season on and off the grid."
So, now this brave new world of Formula 1 has come up with a boxing commentator introducing the drivers, extra sponsor advertising space on the cars, the removal of grid persons, a tweak to the timing schedule of the races but nothing, as far as I can see, that will help the actual racing.
Perhaps there is some connection to the news of last week that Formula 1 revenue for 2017 fell by some US$13 million.
If you don’t have a product that people will buy and your core product is ‘racing’ then people will not buy it.