(Motorsport-Total.com) – They bring feminine charm to the male domain of motorsport: grid girls. It’s hard to imagine a Formula 1 race grid without the pretty ladies. While the World Endurance Championship (WEC) has been doing without grid girls since 2015, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton would like to see even more female esprit in the paddock. But how do you actually become a grid girl?
Grid girls are part of the overall picture for fans as well as drivers and offer sponsors the opportunity to present them, as the women are often a popular photo motif. The title sponsor of the German Grand Prix puts the contract out to tender every year, so there is a lot of competition among the agencies. In the top class on two wheels, the MotoGP, the organization also runs through agencies, but the teams work directly with model agencies.
A Sachsenring spokeswoman explains: “Honda or Yamaha work with model agencies that provide the grid girls. Some also have their girls flown in because they always have the same ones. The girls who hold the signs and flags on the grid are organized by the title sponsor of the event.” In the smaller classes of the World Motorcycle Championship, PR-Ladies or riders’ girlfriends are also roped in as “umbrella girls”. Girls are also selected for sponsors by teams via pageants. The focus here is on appearance.
The experienced manager Meyr-Scheibel knows what is in demand in the top class: “In Formula 1, only the prettiest of the pretties are sought.” She has 6,000 girls in her database. Online and through job ads, the German received a total of more than 1,000 applications. However, not all of them met the very strict requirements.
Above all, you should show professionalism as a grid girl. After all, many girls would have suffered in the twelve-centimeter-high stiletto heels provided by the Spanish bank in Germany.
“That’s when you had to grit your teeth.” Nevertheless, she also emphasizes,
“Basically, any applicant can become a grid girl if she has the appearance accordingly.“
Meyr-Scheibel explains that a grid girl has to meet certain criteria. “They should have a certain height, the customer specifies that. At least this is 1.70 meters. Also, ideal is clothing size 34 or 36. The customer also usually prefers long hair. At least it increases the chances if the girl has nice, long hair” she lists. But a good knowledge of English is also very important, since the clients are usually international corporations. And:”That you can walk in high heels.”
An important point for interested girls is also very good photos in the application. “If someone has already modeled privately or professionally, they have a completely different chance because they already have the photo material,” notes Meyr-Scheibel. In the end, therefore, there are again a lot of models on the racetrack. “I also got passport photos or selfies as application photos in some cases. You can’t do that if you want to apply for a Formula 1 job – even if you’re very pretty.
Styrian Christina Wolfsberger made it to the shortlist in the Top 50 Formula Unas voting in 2015 with her photos. She was allowed to stand on the starting grid of the Austrian Grand Prix and hold Daniil Kwjat sign there. The medical student grew up in Murtal and was therefore interested in motorsport since her childhood. “You should already be interested in Formula 1. After all, that’s what the whole weekend is about,” she says.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been interested in Formula 1. I loved hearing the engine noises when the race took place at what was then the A1 Ring. Even then, I hardly missed a race on TV. To be at such an event myself was a great dream.” says Wolfsberger.
As different as the characters and physical appearance of the women are, so are their motives. On the one hand, the camera presence offers a wide-ranging platform to present themselves. On the other hand, passion and interest in motorsports, especially Formula 1, are increasingly in the foreground, as the example of the young Styrian woman shows. In addition, access to the paddock also offers the opportunity to make new contacts and use the unique chance as a springboard for further career opportunities.
Similar to Wolfsberger, Alexandra Pahr (pictured), Formula Una 2016 also believes that you should definitely have an interest in motorsport as a grid girl. “You have to bring joy and interest in motorsport, because it’s not just about the grid – we also have to give interviews. Not only are the drivers present in the media, but also we girls,” says the Tyrolean. For her, the Formula Unas are “typical girls from Austria who represent their home country” – without model dimensions.
For agency boss Meyr-Scheibel, interest in motorsports is “incidental,” although there are definitely girls who are true fans of the drivers and bolides. In some cases, enthusiasm for the sport has even gone so far that women have offered to forgo their pay in order to increase their chances of getting a job in Formula 1.
“Some of those who really wanted to be booked as Formula 1 grid girls also applied to me and said they didn’t want any money for it,” says Meyr-Scheibel. “At the MotoGP at the Sachsenring, I also had a girl who was such a big fan of Marc Marquez that she burst into tears when she found out she could stand next to her idol on the grid.”
In order to even get onto the starting grid and be allowed to hold the starting number or flag of the respective pilot there, a tough competition has to be overcome. In Austria, too, only 50 of the thousand or so applicants make it through in the end. Many of the applicants already have modeling experience.
In order to project a flawless image, however, the beauties must also adhere to strict rules of conduct. “The bigger the racing series, the more rules there are,” Meyr-Scheibel knows. “Formula 1 has learned from the mistakes of the grid girls in the past. They sent us a whole catalog with all the ‘do’s and don’ts.’ Smoking or holding cell phones – that’s just not on, especially because there are also an insane amount of paparazzi buzzing around Formula 1,” the agency head knows. Wolfsberger adds, “It’s also really important on race weekends to follow instructions so as not to disrupt the proceedings.“
“We met on Friday morning before the race and then moved into our accommodation for the race weekend. On the first day we visited the concert in Spielberg. Saturday was then more stressful because we had some press appointments and were also present at qualifying and then rehearsed the parade in the evening,” she lists.
The race Sunday started very early, “We were made up by stylists. Then came the moment when we were allowed onto the track. It’s an indescribable moment when you realize that the Formula 1 car is rolling closer and closer to you and then stops immediately behind you,” Wolfsberger recalls with pleasure, describing the day as “a wonderful experience”.
The Formula Unas receive a small allowance for their performance. They get to keep their dirndl and, above all, are gifted with new experiences, explain one at the Spielberg project. “The more popular the race, the less lucrative the job,” adds Meyr-Scheibel. “Formula 1 is among the lowest paid. It’s a job for girls who have the passion for it.“
These compensations do not compensate for the sometimes strenuous exertions. Negative media reports revealed the downside. So is being a grid girl a back-breaking job? “It’s really tough. The temperatures, the heat on the asphalt and the shoes that pinch,” the agency operator lists. It’s not uncommon for a girl to pass out on the grid because of this. “They also don’t drink anything because otherwise they would have to run to the toilet again. During the Formula 1 weekend, three girls fainted,” Meyr-Scheibel confirms.
She wouldn’t advise a girl to take on such a job just for the sake of money. Despite all the effort, however, she also maintains, “I also received thank-you letters after the Grand Prix weekend and many said they would do it again because the weekend will be unforgettable in their memories. It really was a great event for the whole team.”
It is also no coincidence that so far almost only women in traditional costumes or tight little skirts have been seen in the starting lineups in Austria, Germany and all over the world, because male applicants are not envisaged. So far there was according to information of the project Spielberg also still no single prospective customer. This means that there will be no repeat of the starting grid from Monaco 2015, where only male “grid boys” were used for the first time.
Sebastian Vettel in particular didn’t like that at all. “When I park the car and have to look at George’s and Dave’s butts, I’m not happy with that,” said the Ferrari driver. The starting grid will therefore remain a women’s domain in the 2017 season, because scantily clad ladies next to the cars and in the pit lane are still as much a part of it for many fans as smoking tires and roaring engines.
Meyr-Scheibel knows: “The fascination that the job – especially in Formula 1 – exerts on many young ladies will continue unabated, because the idea of them standing on the podium with the Grand Prix winner is already very tempting. The pictures of the champagne shower go around the world.”