Flashback: The politically incorrect Australian Grand Prix

No, in the race to find the world's most politically incorrect sport, the formula one grand prix is laps ahead of the rest. Might we hazard a guess that this is exactly why we love it so?

Yesterday's race was the most decadent, ostentatious, in-your-face spectacle seen in conservative Melbourne since the Hookers and Deviates Ball. In every possible way, it was wrong, wrong, wrong, which is exactly why it was also so fantastic.

I mean, is there in any other sport such a blatant example of sexism as the pit girl? Seriously what do they do, besides stand in the cold wearing small satin shorts? Hilarious.

Also, the walking women billboards, with their fake smiles and tragic, dated, all-in-one race costumes, lending tacky 1970's glamour to some product or other, the laughing stock of sensible folk.

Fosters grid girls keep the crowd on their feet.

Photo: Vince Caligiuri

Worse (and better) still were the Grand Prix Girls, who – horror of horrors – had their breasts measured before they got the jobs. In this day and age, how cheeky is that?

Also, there was the conspicuous absence of women drivers. Not up to it, apparently. Not strong enough. Not big enough. No power. Enough to make you seethe, except for the presence of the formidable Judith Griggs.

Winner of the 1996 Grand Prix, Damon Hill, sprays champagne on Eddie Irving. Both sport prominent cigarette advertising.

But it was not just the dodgy use of women's talents that excited us, was it? Everything about the sport was politically incorrect. The French champagne (and the link between alcohol and driving). The conspicuous waste of fossil fuels, the decadent use of finite resources.

Sideline: during the 1970s oil crisis, it was suggested in England that motor racing be scrapped, since so much petrol was used. A clever motoring writer did some figures, then announced that fishing, and not racing, should be banned, since millions of English blokes driving to isolated fishing spots were, in fact, using more fuel.

But back to the bad stuff. Cigarettes! One team is sponsored by Malboro, another by Rothmans, another by Benson and Hedges. In some paddocks, smoking was near compulsory.

And there was the link with illicit sex. A brothel in Elsternwick was last week advertising a "grand prix fantasy". Might we suggest that there would certainly be men who left Albert Park with exactly that?

In all, the grand prix was tonic for an age in which you cannot ride a bicycle without a helmet, nor smoke outside at the football, nor tell jokes about the Irish. It was an event with balls. Marvellous.

First Published in The Age on March 11, 1996

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