Niki Lauda hopes Formula One reconsiders its ban on 'grid girls', a decision he believes is "stupid" and "against women".
This week's announcement that the tradition of promotional models standing on the grid before F1 races will no longer continue has sparked a wave of headlines and debate in international media. While many have praised the decision, there has been criticism -- former boss Bernie Ecclestone accused F1's new owners of being "prudish", while former promotional models have started a petition against the ban.
Three-time world champion Niki Lauda, who is currently non-executive chairman of Mercedes, has added his voice to the criticism.
"This is a decision against women," Lauda told Austrian newspaper 'Der Standard'. "Men have made the decision over the heads of women. This is not doing any favours to F1 and especially not for women. How stupid can they be? Are they nuts?"
Lauda thinks F1 could backtrack on the decision and instead instigate a system which sees men and women share the responsibility together.
"I hope there is a way to reverse the decision. I wouldn't mind seeing grid boys next to grid girls. Why not?"
The Austrian believes 'grid girls' are an essential part of the show F1 has always delivered to fans.
"Grid girls have always belonged in F1, and they should continue to belong in F1. Women are stepping up [into senior roles], and they are doing it very well -- it is moving in the right direction. But one does not exclude the other. I don't want to hold back women -- I want to encourage them.
"If you continue on this path, there will be no cheerleaders left in America."
F1's decision was made as new owners Liberty Media feel the practice is not in line with the brand image it is attempting to cultivate for the sport. The championship is currently undergoing a major rebrand, which included the introduction of a new logo at the end of 2017, and will continue into Liberty's Sophomore Season with a revamped graphics package for all television broadcasts.