Formula 1 just concluded its first weekend in the United States, the 2023 Miami Grand Prix, and one of the main talking points was the drivers’ intro amid dancing cheerleaders.
The F1 weekend in Miami was all about the show, no matter how fake that might be. We saw that in 2022 at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix, and it carried on this year, the organizers turned up the “show” switch several notches.
Although I accept the curtain-raising pre-race activities as part of F1, I am no fan of the side-shows, especially when it means having fake marinas with boats sitting on fake water as well as fake beaches, while the real ones are just a few miles away from the track. In 2022 those “attractions” were ridiculous, and in 2023 they even felt more so.
If you looked closely at the TV feed, especially on Friday and Saturday, there were more people enjoying their play pretend yachts and beaches than those sitting in the grandstands watching the on-track action which begs the question; how do you expect the fans to engage with the sport?
Unless you don’t care if they do or don’t as long as they show up to the F1 paddock and pay $295 for a fruit refresher, or $500 for some quesadillas and chicken tenders.
If this is the plan for F1, not all the Sprint Race weekends in the world will make people watch F1 and become engaged in the racing as the Americanization of our sport revs up with interest in the USA booming. Now that’s off my chest…
Cheerleaders are OK? Then bring Grid Girls back to the F1 grid
I now turn to the subject in the headline of this Editor’s Desk, after the organizers of the Miami Grand Prix deemed it a necessity to improve the “show” by holding a splashy intro for the drivers, with rapper LL Cool J introducing the drivers with music booming and scantily-clad, gyrating cheerleaders waved pom-poms NFL-style as our F1 heroes walked out, most bewildered by the OTT pre-race antics.
In the wake of that show, many drivers complained about this new intro, citing its negative impact on their preparations before the race, George Russell said: “I don’t think there is any other sport in the world that 30 minutes before you go out to do your business, you are out there in the sun, all the cameras on you and making a bit of a show of it.”
Now I do not really care about the drivers’ feelings, they are paid more than enough and treated as superstars so half an hour in the sun (as they do on their luxury yachts) will not really hurt them, so they should suck it up and get on with it.
My problem lies with the endless hypocrisy F1 and Liberty Media are churning out these days and for that, I take you back to 2018 when the powers that be decided to stop the long-held GP tradition of Grid Girls as the sport sought to become more politically correct.
Liberty’s fixer Sean Bratches, the Managing Director, Commercial Operations at Formula 1, said at the time: “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.”
What next? The Liberty Media Brothels Inc. Las Vegas Grand Prix?
I have no problem with having cheerleaders, a common practice in various sports in the United States, but how are they different than having Grid Girls in F1 elsewhere, say Imola next weekend?
What has changed since then, that now having cheerleaders in F1’s pre-race ceremonies does not clash with Liberty’s “brand values”?
Nothing changed, but it is now OK as Liberty continues to pimp F1 around for big bucks as they seek to milk the booming USA market, chasing the dollars in this “Drive to Survive” era where the rules of engagement change on a need-to basis accommodating a new frontier of TikTok and other social media infested (so called) F1 fans.
Looking at the situation in Miami and thinking ahead to the Las Vegas later this season, with its absurd multi-million dollar F1 weekend packages is enough to send shivers down my spine as we await the roll-out of the first “Liberty Media Brothels Inc. Las Vegas Grand Prix” where they can sell themselves legally to punters.
And come on Liberty, after the cheery cheerleaders in Miami (who I respect for the lively job they did on the day) get our F1 Grid Girls back, but let’s call them Grid Ladies instead. Just do it!
[Note: The aim behind this piece is not to have grid girls back per se as much as to point out the hypocrisy of Liberty Media who shamed F1 for having grid girls back in 2018, but saw it fit to have cheerleaders in 2023 just for the “show” as they continue to shove F1 down US fans’ throats while focusing on trivial stuff not the real racing. No shame in having cheerleaders or grid girls. It is a job like any other, some see it necessary at an F1 race and some don’t…]