F1 Exec Ellie Norman Talks Removing Grid Girls, Sport's Future
F1 Dir of Marketing & Communications Ellie Norman became the organization's first female executive when she was hired in '17, and she believes diversity is important as the league goes about "growing the sport and to ensure it remains relevant in the long term," according to a Q&A with Walter Buchignani of the MONTREAL GAZETTE. Norman recently discussed F1's "transformation into a global entertainment brand focused on growing audiences and increasing fan engagement, while retaining its racing DNA." Below are excerpts from the Q&A, some of which have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: One of the first actions when you were hired was to replace the “grid girls.” Tell me about that.
Norman: Diverse teams lead to better decision making, and we were able to have a frank conversation about where we want our sport to be in the future, and how we need to behave in order to remain relevant. And the role of grid girls just didn’t seem to fit with that anymore.
Q: So now there are “grid kids” instead. How did that come about?
Norman: We introduced what we call our F1 FIA Future Stars. Essentially this is working with local promoters, schools and karting clubs to select 20 kids, typically between 8 and 12 years old, and give them the opportunity to stand on the grid with the drivers.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Netflix F1 series, "Drive to Survive"?
Norman: It’s been phenomenally successful, and it presents a phenomenal marketing opportunity because it places F1 in front of an audience that is not necessarily made up of hardcore F1 fans. The super thing about the series is it really gets under the skin of the teams, the human drama within the sport, and it tells a story outside of what happens on the race track.
Q: F1 is expanding to new venues around the world, and some existing ones will be dropped. Where does Montreal stand?
Norman: For us Montreal is a really important partner. We know there’s a superb spectacle being put here. When we think about North America, Montreal is a destination fans want to travel to. The teams and the drivers love to race here, and generally there’s a lot of excitement on the track (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 6/9).