FIA announce new F1 ‘Grid Kids’ program…racers need only apply

And just like that, Formula 1 called for a stop in using Grid Girls for their pre-race ceremonies. The backlash and heated debates on social media were at a feverish pitch for a week or more with everyone and their dog sharing an opinion or shouting the other side down. A tangible example of the mobocracy at work.

Perhaps today’s announcement was always in the works or perhaps it could be in response to the blowback the series received from canceling grid girls. What better way to throw water on a difficult situation involving allure and glamour than to convert the entire conversation from beautiful women to…you guessed it, kids.

Yes, F1 has now announced the new Grid Kids program and as I said in my editorials, I thought any replacement of the status quo would be good if it was replaced with kids. What an amazing opportunity for these youngsters. Who can be upset at doing away with grid girls when you replace them with kids, right?

What I am unclear on is if this was always the plan, why would Sean Bratches lob the grid girl grenade into the public square and let it fester for a week prior to announcing its replacement? That seems antithetical to any PR or marketing campaign.

I can’t imagine a Brand would purposeful place itself at the center of negative controversy for over a week only to then try and do damage control and hope the replacement program garners as much viral reach as the initial shock announcement. Perhaps Sean wanted the controversy and friction in order to garner media attention and while that worked, it isn’t how I would go to market and its could be seen as manipulative and the least common denominator in marketing efforts. F1 fans will quickly grow tired of being toyed with by using click-bait scandals and controversial moves.

Either they knew this was the plan all along and chose not to divulge that at the time they felt compelled to tell the world they’d be canceling grid girls or they didn’t have a backup plan and this is a reaction to the backlash. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I find it hard to believe they would make an announcement without a backup plan to be honest.

This leads me to the line of thought, albeit it may be completely wrong, that F1 made the Grid Kids move as a correction initiative due to the backlash from their initial announcement regarding grid girls. I have to give F1 the benefit here and say this isn’t the case because if it were, it would be very indicting on the PR and marketing acumen of F1.

If the details of the Grid Kids program weren’t completely ironed out yet, then hold off on the grid girl announcement until they had all the details arranged. Why announce only half of the program? That makes little sense unless you were seeking quick viral coverage knowing your decision would elicit strong responses. Here is the complete press release for your review:


The joint initiative will involve the local Grand Prix promoter working alongside ASNs – the FIA-recognised national sporting authorities – who will provide a unique opportunity to youngsters and their families to be part of one of the most exclusive and exciting moments of the whole race weekend.

The youngsters will be chosen by their motorsport clubs on merit, or by lottery, and will already be competing in karting or junior formulae. The lucky few will then be able to accompany and stand alongside the 20 best drivers in the world on the grid as they prepare for the race.

FIA President Jean Todt said: “Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motor sport and the dream of every young racer competing the junior series that make up the FIA’s single-seater pyramid, from karting all the way to F1. We are therefore delighted to bring that dream a little closer by giving the future champions of our sport the opportunity to stand alongside their heroes on the grid in the build-up to the race start. For the wider FIA, this is an excellent initiative that provides additional support to our member ASNs in their efforts to grow motorsport worldwide through a unique reward they can make available to youngsters participating in their national series.”

Sean Bratches, F1 Managing Director of Commercial Operations said: “This will be an extraordinary moment for these youngsters: imagine, standing beside their heroes, watch as they prepare to race, the elite of the elite in motorsport, to be there, alongside them in those precious few minutes just before the start. What an unforgettable experience, for them, and their families. An inspiration to keep driving, training and learning so that they can dream of one day being there themselves. What better way to inspire the next generation of Formula 1 heroes.”

The Grid Kids will be chosen at every Formula 1 race, and where possible, also for the major feeder series like F2 and GP3. They will be accompanied by their immediate family who will have paddock access for race Sunday.

Racers need only apply

I understand the tie-in with junior karting and using the program to grease the wheels of the FIA’s members and their children who are in the racing program but I think this is fine as a component of the program but it leaves out a large element of the equation…the fans.

It’s not that young karters in an FIA junior program aren’t fans of F1, of course they are, but the majority of fans with children don’t have the means to go racing and some kids love F1 but have no interest in becoming race drivers, they just love the sport. Maybe they want to be a motorsport engineer or work in, dare I say, the hospitality arm of F1. These kids have no chance of ever being Grid Kids? Why limit the lottery to just those who are racing in karting? What if you are a kid whose parents can’t afford to be in a local FIA recognized motoring club but you one day aspire to be the next Adrian Newey? Maybe you want to become a business person and one day be the next Claire Williams.

With the limitations to the program, I guess I am trying to discern how this is more relevant and interesting to fans as the headline suggests. I think having kids is terrific, don’t get me wrong. I just think it should be a proverbial “golden ticket” opportunity to Wonka this sucker and give all kids a chance to be grid kids, not just junior race drivers vested in the FIA program.

Pinning this program to the FIA junior racer program lends credence that this decision is reactionary and not originally planned. That’s unfortunate and I hope I am wrong, which I very well could be.

Hat Tip: FIA

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Schumie Toronto

This is DEFINITELY a reaction to the negative press, otherwise it would have been announced at the same time as banning grid girls! I also believe that limiting this to karting kids is ridiculous! Yes using racing kids is a great idea, but ruling-out kids whose parents can’t afford karting, who maybe are even bigger F1 fans (as was I) is totally wrong! Will LM and the FIA even be able to find 20 kid racers in poorer countries like Brazil? On top of that, I can’t wait until the first kid has to pee or gets too cold –… Read more »

Tom Firth

Why would Sean Bratches lob the grid girl grenade into the public square and let it fester for a week prior to announcing its replacement?

Because if they’d just announced this, they wouldn’t have got a week of the UK media in-particularly repeatedly saying, ‘And the season starts on March 25th’… Not that I’m cynical as to why F1 made a huge deal of this or anything when they could have just quietly changed its policy.

Some things just never change, using controversy to promote F1 is one of them.

Schumie Toronto

Totally agree! Just like Uncle Bernie would have done!

Matt Guss

there’s odd and then there’s stupid


I’m happy that grid girls are gone, but this is an amateurish cover-up, probably coming from Jean Todt. Cowards.


What are these kids going to actually do?
I’m worried the drivers will be annoyed with it. If the kids start bothering the drivers during their pre-race zen time, there’s going to be an unfortunate backlash.

Kimi’s gonna make his cry…

Mike Steck

Seems hard to imagine either way being positive…you know? If they knew about this, why not announce it to mitigate the Social Media damage. If they just reacted and created something quick…scary to see such a knee-jerk. Could they have stirred the pot just to gain media activity and attention?

Matt Guss

Stupidest decision since stupid decisions were invented. F1 has made a point and distraction by taking beautiful girls out of the show. They solved a problem that didn’t exist. But what terrifies me are the decisions they are making that actually will make a difference to our sport. And the idea of putting kids instead is a even more ridiculous and off point. When in doubt use children and pets to cute things up a bit. The ONLY place I want to see kids at an F1 race is in the stands. I detest the ploy of using kids to… Read more »

Heath Newland

I thought the were just going to get rid of the Girls and have nothing but now they have announced the grid kid replacement, it seems much more likely that yes there will a couple of spots for local kart drivers but by far the slots will be taking up by local motor association grandee or provincial politician’s Grandkids after all there is only a couple of race stewards slots you what to keep the locals happy