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Saudi woman drives F1 car to mark historic day

‘Dream the impossible’

LE CASTELLET, France, June 24, (RTRS): Aseel Al-Hamad drove a Renault Formula One car around the French Grand Prix circuit in front of thousands of fans on Sunday and declared the start of a new era for Saudi women in motorsport.

The lap of Le Castellet’s Paul Ricard track, in a race-winning 2012 Lotus Renault E20, came on the day a ban ended on female drivers getting behind the wheel on the Gulf kingdom’s roads.

“I believe today is not just celebrating the new era of women starting to drive, it’s also the birth of women in motorsport in Saudi Arabia,” she told Reuters.

“The most important thing I am looking forward to is to start seeing the next generation, young girls, trying (motorsport).

“I want to watch them training and taking the sport very seriously as a career. This is going to be really my biggest achievement.”

Sunday was not the first time Al-Hamad had driven a Formula One car, the Saudi interior designer and businesswoman trying out the same one at the circuit on June 5 as part of a familiarisation day.

But that was private, whereas Sunday was very public as part of a parade of the French manufacturer’s historic racing cars to mark the return of Formula One to France after a 10-year absence.

The car took 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, now at Ferrari, to victory in Abu Dhabi in November 2012.

“It was perfect. Everything was smooth, I felt I belong in the seat,” she said afterwards. “I loved the fact that there was an audience around … today is magical.”

“I never even imagined it in my dreams. So the opportunity was amazing,” she said of her first outing. “That day I thought it was the only lifetime experience. And they invited me again.

“It’s a great honour for me to share with them the celebration and passion for Renault.

“I believe the beauty of this story is that everything is possible. Even if you dream the impossible you can still achieve it,” she said.

Al-Hamad is already the first female member of the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation and on the Women in Motorsport Commission set up by Formula One’s governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA).

 

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