Formula 1 will use ‘grid kids’ in 2018 after the sport decided to stop using grid girls before races.
The youngsters will be young karters and aspiring racing drivers selected by each grand prix’s national sporting authority and 20 at each event will have the chance to stand alongside the drivers on the grid before the race.
The ‘grid kids’ will be selected on merit or via a lottery system, with F1 bosses saying it will make the build-up to races “more relevant and interesting for fans, especially the younger ones”.
The youngsters will not necessarily be used at all 21 races this season, with the possibility of alternative themes at certain races. However, the old practice of identically-dressed promotional female models has been firmly dropped.
Explaining the decision, F1 commercial chief Sean Bratches 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.”
FIA president Jean Todt added: “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.”
Child mascots have long been a common feature in football, with youngsters accompanying players on the walk from the tunnel to the pitch in World Cup and European Championship fixtures.
F1’s decision to end the longstanding practice of using walk-on models has proved hugely contentious with former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone among those to criticise the move.