Monaco Grand Prix to feature promotional models on grid

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The Monaco Grand Prix will feature female promotional models on the grid ahead of the race despite Formula One's decision to end the practice of officially employing 'grid girls' ahead of the 2018 season.

In the run up to the current season, F1 announced it would no longer use promotional female models to display driver numbers on the grid as the practice was "at odds with modern day societal norms". The decision sparked a wide range of opinions both in favour and in opposition.

Sunday's race will see female and male representatives of Tag Heuer, a long-time partner of the Monaco Grand Prix, take to the grid moments before lights out. According to PA Sport, they will capture pictures of the drivers, which will be posted to social media, and relay messages from the sport's fans.

An F1 spokesperson told ESPN that this practice does not fall under F1's definition of 'grid girls' and is also in line with the appearance of promotional models at other races this season, such as Emirates flight stewardesses on the grid ahead of the start of the Spanish Grand Prix. The Tag Heuer models on Sunday will not hold placards displaying each driver's number, which had been the practice until this season.

The topic was put to the grid's two four-time world champions, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, during Wednesday's press conference ahead of this week's race.

When asked for his opinion, Hamilton said: "I think women are the most beautiful thing in the world so... There's been races where we've had guys standing at the front and a mixture at some races in the past.

"I think Monaco is a very elegant grand prix and I don't know how women feel about it, I haven't really ever spoken to them about how they feel about the whole situation. I can't really comment. I don't particularly feel any way about it. When we pull up to the grid and there's beautiful women on the grid that's the Monaco Grand Prix, that's a lovely thing.

"But I definitely don't think we should be pushing or supporting these women to feel uncomfortable, and if they are we shouldn't do it. But if they are comfortable doing it I don't really have an answer for you otherwise."

Sitting alongside him was title rival Vettel, who famously made a joke about the lack of female models on the grid ahead of the 2015 race in Monaco, when male models took their place. At the time the Ferrari driver said: "You go there and you park behind George or Dave... What's the point?"

Vettel believes the whole issue has received too much attention since the original decision was made by F1 bosses.

"I think the whole thing has been blown up, probably unnecessarily because I don't think any of the grid girls in the past were forced to do it, so i think they enjoyed what they were doing," he said. "I agree with Lewis, I like women, I think they look beautiful.

"If there was guys, I was just not interested... nothing against those guys, I just didn't care as much but the bottom line is I think it's too much of a fuss nowadays. I think all of the women that took part as a gird girl in the past did it because they want to so for sure you ask any grid girl on Sunday whether they are happy to stand there their answer will be yes.

"I don't think there's anybody who forces them to. It speaks a little bit for our times that sometimes there's a lot of noise for nothing."

F1 replaced 'grid girls' with 'grid kids', which sees youngsters already involved in motorsport given the chance to meet their heroes on the grid. This will still take place this weekend in Monaco -- one of them will be the cousin of Sauber's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc.

Monaco Grand Prix (All times Eastern)
Practice 1 - Thursday, May 24, 4.55 AM - ESPN2
Practice 2 - Thursday, May 24, 8.55 AM - ESPNEWS

Practice 3 - Saturday, May 26, 5.55 AM - ESPN2
Qualifying - Saturday, May 26, 8.55 AM - ESPN2

'On the Grid' - Sunday, May 27 8.30 AM - ESPN
Race - Sunday, May 27, 9.05 AM - ESPN

Encore - Sunday, May 27, 3.30PM - ABC
Encore - Monday, May 8, 2018, 3.30 AM - ESPN2
Encore - Monday, May 28, 2018, 8.00 PM - ESP2