AS THE ban on women drivers was lifted in Saudi Arabia at the weekend, one of the country’s leading female motor sport figures marked the occasion by getting behind the wheel of a Formula One car at the French Grand Prix.
Aseel Al Hamad made a further breakthrough for Saudi Arabian women by driving a Lotus Renault E20 vehicle around the Circuit Paul Ricard, prior to Sunday’s F1 race.
Hamad, the first female member of Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation, and part of the Women in Motorsport Commission (WMC) set up by Formula One’s governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), drove the same Lotus that took Finland’s 2007 world champion, Kimi Raikkonen, to victory in Abu Dhabi in 2012.
In a statement released by Renault, Hamad said: “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 added: “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.”
Women in Saudi Arabia were able to take to the roads at midnight on Saturday, ending the world’s last ban on female drivers, 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 leading oil exporter and to modernise the country.