Former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has defended the use of grid girls after current bosses decided to end their use at races.
The 87-year-old ex-Formula One Group chief executive has been critical of the sport’s American owners Liberty Media, who declared that the practice of employing grid girls was “at odds with modern day societal norms” on Wednesday and have scrapped their use with immediate effect.
The move follows a similar decision made by the Professional Darts Corporation last month and has put other sports in the spotlight, with boxing, UFC and cycling all still hiring glamorous women to entertain crowds at events.
But Ecclestone said in an interview with Sky News: “These girls did nothing harmful to anybody. They were smartly dressed. We might as well say we don’t want people to go to a fashion show because, basically, that’s what happened.
“Sponsors wanted to see the people that represented them very smartly dressed, which is what they did.
“I thought people enjoyed seeing the girls and they were necessary really, because when a driver wants to get on to the grid it’s much better and easier for them to know their place where they need to stop.”
Ecclestone also talked of the commercial benefits to the sport, adding: “We used to charge the sponsors for allowing them to have their girls on the grid dressed really nice so people would take notice of them. I don’t remember any of the girls being forced to do any of these things.”
Some grid girls have been hitting back at what they perceive to be an invasion of their right to make their own decisions.
Rebecca Cooper, who describes herself as a “five-time F1 grid girl”, wrote on Twitter: “So the inevitable has happened, F1 grid girls have been banned.
“Ridiculous that women who say they are ‘fighting for women’s rights’ are saying what others should and shouldn’t do, stopping us from doing a job we love and are proud to do. PC gone mad.”
Another grid girl, Lauren-Jade Pope, wrote: “Because of these feminists, they’ve have cost us our jobs! I have been a grid girl for eight years and I have never felt uncomfortable! I love my job, if I didn’t I wouldn’t do it! No one forces us to do this! This is our choice!”
Others, however, have hailed F1’s ban as a step in the right direction.
Melinda Messenger, who said she worked as a grid girl for the Jordan team for around four years, told The Wright Stuff on Channel 5: “I actually think this is a good thing. I think it’s a sign that we’re heading in a really positive direction.
“I personally had a great time, I made some good money out of it, I had fun but really, looking back, essentially all I was there for was decoration and I think that’s the issue.
“I think we are changing and we’re moving forward.”