Aseel Al Hamad made a further breakthrough for Saudi Arabian women by driving a Formula One car ahead of the French Grand Prix.
The lap of the Le Castellet circuit came on the day a ban ended on women driving on the Gulf kingdom’s roads.
Hamad drove a 2012 Renault car as part of a parade of the French manufacturer’s vehicles to mark the return of the race after a 10-year absence. The same Lotus Renault E20 car took Finland’s 2007 world champion, Kimi Raikkonen, to victory in Abu Dhabi in 2012.
“I believe today is not just celebrating the new era of women starting to drive, it’s also the birth of women in motor sport in Saudi Arabia,” Hamad told Reuters.
“The most important thing I am looking forward to is to start seeing the next generation, young girls, trying [motor sport]. I want to watch them training and taking the sport very seriously as a career. This is going to be really my biggest achievement.”
Hamad is the first female member of the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation and on the Women in Motorsport Commission (WMC) set up by Formula One’s governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA).
She first drove the E20 on a training day on 5 June at the circuit.
“I have loved racing and motor sport from a very young age and to drive a Formula One car goes even beyond my dreams and what I thought was possible,” she said. “I hope doing so on the day when women can drive on the roads in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia shows what you can do if you have the passion and spirit to dream.”
Michèle Mouton, a former rally driver and president of the WMC, said she hoped Hamad’s example would help pave the way for more women to embrace careers in motor sport.
Women in Saudi Arabia were able to take to the roads at midnight on Saturday, ending the world’s last ban on female drivers, long seen as an emblem of women’s repression in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.
The lifting of the ban, ordered last September by King Salman, is part of sweeping reforms pushed by his powerful young son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a bid to transform the economy of the world’s top oil exporter and open up its cloistered society.
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