Grid girls line up after the qualifying session for the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix. File photo: Frank Augstein / AP

London - Formula One is ending the use of female models who parade on the starting grid and stand with the drivers' name boards before every Grand Prix.

The decision was announced on Wednesday with the change, which also applies to all support races, coming into effect from the start of the season in Australia on 25 March.

Commercial manager Sean Bratches said: "While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula One Grands Prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms.

We don't believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula One and its fans, old and new, across the world," he added.

The move became a major talking point among fans on social media and was welcomed by Britain's Women's Sport Trust, which said in a tweet: "Thank you @F1 for deciding to stop using grid girls.

"Another sport making a clear choice about what they want to stand for."

'Sexist and outdated'

Cycling, professional boxing and the UFC still have women parading between bouts or featuring as podium hostesses but the Professional Darts Corporation recently scrapped such walk-on roles.

Britain's Sun tabloid newspaper took a different view, however, with a front page headline on Thursday blaming 'killjoys' for turning the sport into 'Formula Dumb'.

Formula One has not had a woman race driver on the starting grid since the 1970s but is now far more mixed off the track, with female engineers, aerodynamicists and mechanics as well as in media and marketing. Two of the 10 teams have had female bosses, including former champion Williams, and Formula One management has a number of women in senior positions.

Russian-style grid girls at Sochi. File photo: Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

The use of female models, even if not as scantily-clad as in the past, has been increasingly criticised as sexist and outdated in a sport that is now undergoing a revamp since Liberty Media took over in 2017.

Liberty, who ousted octogenarian former supremo Bernie Ecclestone a year ago, have been looking to make the pre-race show more of a feature with the emphasis on entertainment for fans and promotion.

"Formula One considers the time spent by teams and drivers on the grid before a race as one of celebration," it said, "where guests and various performers can add to the glamour and spectacle of the Grand Prix."

It added that the change would allow promoters and partners "to showcase their countries and products".

Grid girls walk onto the Paul Ricard circuit for the start of the 81st Bol d'Or Endurance motorcycle race at the Paul Ricard circuit, in Le Castellet, near Marseille, southern France in September 2017. There is no talk of removing the so-called 'brolly dollies; from the grid at motorcycle races, as they actually serve a useful purpose, shielding riders clad in heavy leather riding gear from the sun. File photo: Claude Paris / AP

Formula One's managing director for motorsport Ross Brawn gave notice in December 2017 that the use of female models on the grid was under review.

"There's a lot of people respect the tradition of the grid girls and there's people who feel that it has become a bit dated, so we're addressing that," he told the BBC at the time.

In 2015, men were deployed in place of the women at the Monaco Grand Prix - a move welcomed by some fans and deplored by others.

That same year, the FIA-sanctioned World Endurance Championship announced an end to the practice at the Le Mans 24 Hours sports-car race.