grid girls
'Grid girls' will no longer be used by Formula 1 from the start of the 2018 World Championship season Getty/Mirco Lazzari gp

Grid girls will no longer be used by Formula 1 from the start of the 2018 World Championship season in March, according to the organisation.

In a statement released on its website, Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations at Formula 1 said: "While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 Grands Prix for decades, 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."

'Grid girls' are models employed for promotional work and usually wear clothing emblazoned with the name of a sponsor. Their duties in F1 range from holding umbrellas or driver name-boards on the grid and lining the corridor through which the drivers parade on their way to the pit-stops.

The decision has been extremely divisive with some arguing that the job was rooted in sexism and portrayed women as sex objects.

But what do the women directly affected by the decision think? IBTimes UK spoke to some grid girls to gauge their opinion.

Samantha Young, 31 (London)

Young's career as a grid girl was never planned she told IBTimes UK.

"I grew up around motorsport, family and friends had race teams, were racing drivers and mechanics etc. so I was always at circuits. One day a team's grid girl didn't show up so they asked me to fill in. Twelve years later and I'm still doing it."

It was a genuine love of motorsports that attracted her to the role of grid girl.

"As a job it's amazing as it gives me a way to be involved in the sport and I'm as much a part of the team as any other member. I'm well respected, they consult me on all the outfits and every aspect of my role. All in all there are amazing people to work with and it's an amazing job. I've never once felt objectified or demeaned in any way."

As for the news that F1 would no longer feature grid girls, she disagreed with the decision and said she could not understand where the ban had come from.

"I have no idea where this idea that we are forced to wear awful outfits has come from. If I didn't like an outfit given to me, I just wouldn't wear it. I think it all comes down to choice, and it's not right that we should have ours removed.

"I don't agree at all that it's a bad job or taking things away from women. All women should be allowed to have a choice in what they do for work - surely removing that choice is a step backwards?"

She added that she believed grid girls had always had a huge part to play in national motorsport and hoped that this won't end as a result.

Claire Ewin, 25 (Northamptonshire)

Like Young, Ewin grew up loving motorsports as her dad had always worked in the industry. From the age of 16 she became a brand ambassador for various companies and gave out freebies and collected data at events, until she unexpectedly got scouted by a modelling agency who specialised in grid work.

She told IBTimes UK: "From a young age I was bullied for my looks, so getting noticed in this big world was massive to me. I started six years ago on my first-ever race for the world endurance championship at Silverstone and from there spread my wings and got picked to do so many other races including British Touring Car Championship, British Superbike Championship, MotoGP, British Speedway, and even a jet ski championship. I was exploring the world and doing something I loved."

She said the day she got asked to work at F1, a few years after she became a grid girl, was the biggest day of her life and that she agreed without any hesitation.

The job was really intense and her day began at 7am and finished 12 hours later. She and the other women were expected to take pictures with fans, give away freebies and raise awareness of the brand however they could throughout the day.

"Never once were we touched inappropriately, spoken about inappropriately or anything. We were highly respected and treated like we were just doing our job, of course you get the odd wolf whistle from afar but nothing more than you get from walking down a street. And you just ignore it and carry on."

As for the skimpy outfits or sparkly jumpsuits, which have drawn a lot of criticism, she thinks that the motorsport industry has to tackle it themselves.

"I think the ban is the stupidest thing I've heard of as over the years F1 have realised the outfits weren't the classiest and so over the past five to eight years have changed them as a result.

"A lot of the people who seem to have a problem are people who mainly haven't been to a F1 race so expect the worst. A lot of grid girls have full-time jobs outside of modelling, and choose to do gridding on their days off, as it's what they love: being right in the action at the races you dream about is incredible."

Emma Kobylko, 31 (Liverpool)

Kobylko began her career as a grid girl in 2008 after winning a competition. After enjoying the first day she asked to stay on, despite it being unpaid, as it put her "in the centre of the action", she told IBTimes UK.

After giving birth to her second child in 2014 she retired and has had time to reflect on her years spent gridding.

"As a job, it was wonderful. But I have to be brutally honest here and say there are times where it is hard work and disappointing. There were times where I was given a job, only to be told I wasn't needed or had been replaced by another girl. However, I met amazing people, I've travelled and I have been treated brilliantly."

Since many of the racers were people she idolised, the job allowed her to meet some of her heroes.

Despite having spent some time away from motorsport, she isn't convinced that grid girls should banned.

"I actually don't see the point in it. Many people think the F1 grid girls don't have a purpose, but surely not everything in life has to have a purpose? Can't it just be fun and entertaining? Motorcycle racing is very open about the grid girls. I've seen plenty of guys up there. F1 is less open about that."

She added that perhaps the answer was to re-think who can be a 'grid girl' and that banning it simply excluded women from motorsport.