79-Year Old Lady Becomes World's Oldest F1 Driver

Record

Take that, Bernie Ecclestone.

Motorsports is typically male-dominated, and this is especially true in Formula One. Last year, former F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone made some controversial comments that women "aren’t strong enough" to drive a Formula One car and "will never be taken seriously". Very few women have gotten behind the wheel of an F1 car, and even fewer have competed in a Grand Prix since the sport began nearly 70 years ago. To prove a point, Renault Sport Formula One invited 79 year-old Rosmary Smith to take one of the team’s 800-hp race cars for a spin.

Rosmary had never driven an F1 car before, but does have some racing pedigree. Originally, she had an ambition to open a dress shop and trained as a seamstress. One of her clients invited her to navigate a rally, and she became hooked. This inspired her to compete in Irish rallies, where she regularly achieved podium spots and wins.

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“Driving an 800-hp car is something I, like many other racers, have always dreamt of but I didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to do it, so when the team at Renault UK contacted me I jumped at the chance," said Rosemary. "It was definitely very different to the rally cars I’m used to, but was an amazing experience. I could feel myself getting more and more comfortable with the single-seater and being able to speak to Jolyon, driver to driver, also helped when the nerves did kick in. After racing and facing the challenges of competing in a male-dominated sport together for many years I was so happy that my friend Pauline was able to share this latest milestone and give me that extra boost."

It just goes to show that anyone can fulfil their dreams at any age if they put their mind to it and always follow their passions.” As part of its 40th anniversary celebrations, Smith was invited by Renault UK to take part in the unique test drive. After being taught the basics by Renault Sport driver Jolyon Palmer, she was unleashed onto Circuit Paul Ricard in Southern France to set some laps. According to Renault, Smith holds the record for the oldest person to drive a modern Formula One car. Take that, Bernie Ecclestone. Motorsport needs more women drivers.

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