London: Chase Carey, Formula One’s chief executive, says there will still be “pretty girls at races” under his leadership, adding that the sport will still have “glamour and mystique” going forwards.
In comments that are likely to raise eyebrows given Formula One’s attempts to project a new image of itself by shelving grid girls — a practice which it said last week was “at odds with modern-day societal norms” — Carey admitted he personally would have kept the practice as he “liked it”.
But in an interview with select newspapers, he said he had taken account of the views of other stakeholders and fans and had to “respect” their wishes. “I think the reaction [to the scrapping of grid girls] has been what we expected,” Carey said. “We’ve had some people who have been positive about it and others who were concerned. Unsurprisingly, many long-term fans view it as part of the sport they grew up with and I respect that.
“Actually if you just left it up to me, personally, I like the grid girls. But it’s not a decision for me, it’s a decision for fans. And I think what we found is that a number of people anecdotally raised the issue, and as I went around what I found was there was a meaningful segment that found it ... I don’t know whether offensive is too strong — but found it exploitative or did not find it appropriate for the world we live in today.
“I’d say on those who were OK with it, I got a lot more ‘I’m OK with it’ rather than ‘it’s important to me’. So when you end up with this meaningful segment that felt it was outdated, that it had an exploitative element to it — and I recognise that many of the grid girls were proud to do it and I think that’s great — but I think when you have as many people as I found who felt it was outdated and didn’t belong in a sport today, I think you have to be cognisant of that.
“The number that were passionately positive on the other side was much smaller.” Carey, who took over as chief executive from Bernie Ecclestone last year after US giant Liberty Media bought F1’s commercial rights, said that Formula One would still be glamorous in the new era Liberty was trying to forge.
“We’re going to maintain glamour,” he said. “We’re going to continue to have pretty girls at races. I think it’s a part of life, and it’s a part of what makes our sport special. It is a sport of glamour and of mystique. But I think you have to continue to evolve. In today’s world there are obviously different sensitivities to 10 to 12 years ago. I don’t think you can just be stubborn.
“There are things that made sense in the past that don’t going forward. When I was at Fox I used to say, “I wish the world was frozen with three broadcast networks. It was a much simpler world’. But it’s not. You do have to continue to evolve and respect people’s views. If a meaningful number of people don’t agree with something, I think you have to respect that. But we will continue to be a sport with glamour, with excitement — and with pretty girls.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Carey said the sport had “not delivered what it should have delivered in the last half a dozen years”, but he was confident Liberty could grow the fanbase by bringing “fresh energy and momentum”. He said he wanted to make the racing “more competitive, less predictable and with more action”, adding that he was keen for another US race.
He dismissed the threat posed by electric series Formula E, saying it was “not a competitor to us in many ways” and its events were more akin to a “street party”.
— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2018