Formula 1 / MotoGP

An Appreciation Letter to Paddock Girls

I’ll start by being honest. Soap operas taught me that’s the best way to do it. I don’t understand your job and I can’t justify its existence. But I can appreciate a job well done. You are pretty, there’s no denying, and more fit than I ever was. Abstaining from my weekly KFC trip requires a restraint that I just don’t have, but I’m sure you do, and I envy you for that.

But that’s not the only reason I value your skills. The more I think about it, I could never do your work. First of all, being ordered around by men whose only expectation is to not be in their way when they do their job is annoying. And being paid by other men whose interest in my welfare can be quantified in viewing figures or sales is frustrating. Yet, you keep a confident attitude and a smile on your face. Although I would welcome a champagne bath, I’d much rather be the one buying the thing in the first place to celebrate my own achievements – I love Vale, but if I was the podium girl at COTA, I’d have snapped those glasses off his head like twiglets.

Yes, I might just be the worst person for the job.

Then there’s the wardrobe. Some of the outfits look nice, like the Red Bull ones from Argentina, or the jeans & Honda team shirt for cloudy days, but Suzuki for example have shockingly poor taste in clothes. First of all, blue and yellow don’t work well together; the look might have a very high-profile promoter, but no woman would willingly make that fashion choice. Second of all, crop tops are the cloth from hell. I have back problems and I’m prone to catching colds; I’d curse the one who made me wear that. Even so, exposed skin is not a problem, I love a good Vogue shoot as much as the next girl. Ok, maybe not as much; it’s all androgynous and agender lately, while my fashion sense is very much trapped between 1850’s crinolines and the roaring 20s.

Regardless of such superficial aspects, you understand marketing much better than I do. I could never wear a Monster shirt cause I don’t believe in the product, or a CWM hat because, well, I have no idea what they do. Beauty sells, it’s a proven marketing strategy, but one I cannot wrap my head around. I could don a Repsol backpack but I wouldn’t even convince myself to buy it. While Marc embodies much of my idea of attractiveness, I still wouldn’t buy Oakleys because I look like an alien wearing them (and not the cool racing type). Indirectly, you are better salesmen than I am.

Let’s say I could get over all that for the right amount of money. If Beckham can promote diapers in China, I’m sure I can tolerate an energy drink logo on my bottom. What could be harder to overcome though, is all the attention. Between feminists who wish I were in a research lab somewhere (actually, I do wish I were) and creepy dudes who’ve never met me yet for some reason feel that I’m essential to their weekend, I’d be very uncomfortable. This is one of those circumstances where I would get a restraining order against anyone who laments my absence. Would they be as happy if they had to read my exam scores and a short analysis of my achievements before looking at my photos? Plus, I’m sure my dad would knock on each and every one of their doors to slap some sense into them. And tape their eyes closed. We’re more conservative I guess.

Same goes for those photographers who would take ground level shots in the proximity of my skirt – I’d set a new lap record for a lens moving through the esophagus. And you have to do all that with a permanent smile on your face – I struggle to do that even when I get a gift, I’m more of a Jorge than a Marc in that respect.

Last but not least, each extra diploma in my CV would only make it more difficult to spend my days holding an umbrella for a 16-year-old who doesn’t yet know the proper way to wash silk or how to file deductible expenses. Do I sound frustrated? Well, I’m sure I would be. And as much as I try to be open and tolerant, because it’s my job to be, would I like to put my daughter through this?

All jobs are challenging, physically or mentally or both, and even something as simple as carrying an umbrella around comes with some issues. Am I jealous? No, I would hate for people to think I’m unintelligent because they don’t see me doing an intellectual job and wearing a short skirt instead. And not because I care about their opinion (I do both of those things anyway), but because, ultimately, their prejudice and low expectations will make it hard for me to get the future I want. We like to think that society has evolved beyond those things, but it constantly proves us wrong. I’m reasonably pretty, reasonably skilled and reasonably intelligent but that won’t be enough for the kids who grow up to think that exceptionally pretty, exceptionally silent and exceptionally obedient should be my aptitude list.

For every Maria Herrera, there are 30 grid girls. And for every Marie Curie, there are 3000 managers who wouldn’t hire a woman in a leadership position. And when the people you look up to say it’s ok, why would you do otherwise?

Finally, this article has no images and no funny photoshops. Because, sometimes, you don’t need pictures to sell an idea, just let it float out there patiently, maybe it makes an echo.

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