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First grid girls, now F1 drops classic start times

Having controversially dropped grid girls from the world championship, Formula One chiefs axed another long-standing tradition on Thursday – the 2pm start.

From this year, races will start 10 minutes later, meaning the Singapore Grand Prix will start at 8.10pm this year, while the European and Brazilian sessions will begin an hour later than in previous years, said Liberty Media.

"Some broadcasters usually go on air precisely on the hour, hence missing the tension and emotion that characterise the minutes before the start ," said a statement.

"Thanks to this change, television viewers will be brought closer to the teams and the drivers and fully enjoy the spectacle offered just before the red lights go out.

Explaining the schedule change for Europe and Brazil, it read: "Research has indicated that a wider TV audience is reachable later in the afternoons, especially in the summer months.

"Consequently, it has been decided to move the schedule of every session back by one hour across the whole weekend…"

The new Formula One season begins on March 25 with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Bernie Ecclestone, meanwhile, has slammed the "prudish" decision to dispense with grid girls in the lead-up to races.

Typically, the grid girls in Formula One display team placards or stand with an umbrella that shields drivers waiting in their cars from the weather before the start of a Grand Prix.

But feminist groups and others have hit out at sports who employ women in purely "decorative" roles, saying it is demeaning and makes it harder for female competitors to be taken seriously in what is still a largely male-dominated environment.

However, 87-year-old British businessman Ecclestone, for decades the "ringmaster" of F1 before selling to current owners Liberty Media, was unimpressed.

"The country at the moment is getting a bit prudish," he said.

"You should be allowed to have grid girls because the drivers like them, the audience likes them and no one cares. These girls were… part of the spectacle.

"I can't see how a good-looking girl standing with a driver and a number in front of a Formula One car can be offensive to anybody."



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