Motorsport must encourage more women to compete, says Saudi female driver Aseel Al-Hamad

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Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Aseel Al-Hamad said the fact that only 1.5 percent of racing licences are held by women was “a big international issue.” (Photo: Faisal Albisher)
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Ahead of the Diriyah ePrix, Al-Hamad drove Porsche’s first all-electric road vehicle -- the Taycan -- from Dubai to Riyadh with former F1 driver Mark Webber. The model goes on sale in the Middle East in 2020. (Porsche)
Updated 22 November 2019

Motorsport must encourage more women to compete, says Saudi female driver Aseel Al-Hamad

  • FIA is hosting an event alongside the Nov. 22-23 Diriyah ePrix called “Girls on Track"
  • Said Kingdom hosting events like Formula E is vital in boosting popularity of motorsport

RIYADH: One of Saudi Arabia’s first female racing drivers believes motorsport is too male dominated and that more needs to be done to encourage women to enter the sport.

Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Aseel Al-Hamad said the fact that only 1.5 percent of racing licences are held by women was “a big international issue.”

Al-Hamad, who is also the first female board member of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, said that while there are some women blazing a trail in the sport, more needs to be done by its authorities.

“There are Formula 1 drivers like Tatiana Calderón, team principles such as Susie Wolff and Claire Williams. We also have female mechanical engineers and in all kinds of positions, but they are just a few. 

“We need to use them as role models to encourage more young girls to become like these amazing women,” she added.

Al-Hamad, who has been passionate about cars since her youth, told Arab News that she is a fan of Formula 1 and a highlight of her career was being invited to drive an F1 car, but her driving idol was Michèle Mouton.

“Because, back then in the 1980s, she competed in an all-men rally championship. And honestly, I don't think anyone did what she did at that time,” she said.

It is experiences like those that inspired her to forge a path for more women in motorsport and lead the way for female drivers in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Al-Hamad, who mixes racing with her interior design business, is one of the representatives on the International Automobile Federation (FIA)’s “Women in Motorsport Commission”, which creates programs and initiatives to encourage more young girls to be inspired by the sport and consider it as a career.

“I won’t forget the day I got contacted by the president of the Federation asking me to join the board of directors, it's great because I have lots of difficulties in my career and it's so great to now build a foundation for these young women and ensure that they won't go through the struggles and the challenges I went through,” she said.

On the possibility of one day seeing a Saudi female world champion in major motorsport such as F1 and Formula E, she said: “Today, it is possible, especially when we are seeing how the government is very much supporting sports and women’s participation in sport. 

“We have just recently started and we're starting really fast. I won’t be surprised to see a champion soon competing in big international events.”

Al-Hamad also said the Kingdom hosting events like Formula E is vital in boosting the popularity of motorsport in the country and the wider region. 

“Maybe most of the people used to watch football. But, today, when we have such international motorsport event, so many people will get closer to the motorsport and understand the rules. 

“And maybe these young generations, when they attend the race, they might get inspired and become fans of motorsport.” She added.

The FIA is hosting an event alongside the Nov. 22-23 Diriyah ePrix called “Girls on Track,” the second time such an event has been held outside of Europe.

“This event is very much focused on encouraging young girls from eight to 18 years old to discover their talents and motorsport, hopefully it will inspire them to consider a career in motorsport,” Al-Hamad said. 

The event will include educational workshops to introduce girls to a range of topics -- from mechanical engineering to motorsport journalism, as well as opportunities to use racing simulators and to drive on a carting track.

The girls will also take part in a panel discussion with some figurehead females in motorsport including Susie Wolff, team principal of Venturi Formula E. 

“We've approached mostly schools and we sent them invitations to have girls register and hopefully they will discover their talents,” Al-Hamad said.

Her advice to young women is to achieve what they dream for, even if they are dreaming big.

“They might have some fears at the beginning, they might think it's impossible. But my advice to them is to take small steps and just think of the steps with time, they will be surprised that they actually achieve their dreams,” she said.

Ahead of the Diriyah ePrix, Al-Hamad drove Porsche’s first all-electric road vehicle -- the Taycan -- from Dubai to Riyadh with former F1 driver Mark Webber.




Ahead of the Diriyah ePrix, Al-Hamad drove Porsche’s first all-electric road vehicle -- the Taycan -- from Dubai to Riyadh with former F1 driver Mark Webber. The model goes on sale in the Middle East in 2020. (Porsche)

The Taycan, which goes on sale in the Middle East in 2020, is the most powerful production electric model that the sports car manufacturer currently has in its product range, hitting 0-100kmh in 3.2 seconds.

On driving it, Al-Hamad said: “We wanted to test the performance of the car and it's great that we just arrived ahead of Porsche's debut in the Formula E this weekend.

“I love the handling, the feeling, it's a fast car, it has the same Porsche DNA in its interior and exterior. It is a beautiful car.”


Fernandinho own-goal costs Manchester City more points

Manchester City’s Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez leaps during Saturday’s match against Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium in England. (AFP)
Updated 19 January 2020

Fernandinho own-goal costs Manchester City more points

  • Tottenham’s hopes of finishing in top four dented by goalless draw at Watford

LONDON: Pep Guardiola’s 49th birthday celebrations went flat as Fernandinho’s late own goal forced Manchester City to settle for a 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace, while Tottenham’s hopes of finishing in the top four were dented by a goalless draw at Watford on Saturday.

On a busy day of top-flight action, the pitch side VAR monitor was used in the Premier League for the first time at Norwich and Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw by Sheffield United.
It was the drama at the Etihad Stadium that took the spotlight as Fernandinho’s last-gasp blunder left Guardiola in no mood to party after City’s faint hopes of retaining the title suffered another hammer blow.
The champions trail Liverpool by 13 points ahead of the runaway leaders’ clash with rivals Manchester United on Sunday.
Palace won the corresponding fixture at the Etihad Stadium last season and the south Londoners took a shock lead in the 39th minute.
Cenk Tosun marked his first league start since his loan move from Everton with his maiden goal for the Eagles, the Turkish striker netting a close-range strike from Martin Kelly’s flick.
Sergio Aguero appeared to have turned the game on its head in the 82nd minute when the Argentine striker turned in Gabriel Jesus’ cross for his 250th goal in 360 games for the club.
Aguero put City ahead in the 87th minute with a typically predatory header from Benjamin Mendy’s cross. But there was a sting in the tale for Guardiola as Fernandinho turned Wilfried Zaha’s cross into his own net in the 90th minute to end second-placed City’s run of three successive league wins.
At Vicarage Road, Troy Deeney’s 70th-minute spot kick was saved by Paulo Gazzaniga before Tottenham’s Erik Lamela was denied a last-gasp winner by Ignacio Pussetto’s goal-line clearance.
With England captain Harry Kane sidelined after hamstring surgery, Tottenham have gone three league games without scoring.
Jose Mourinho’s side are without a win in four league matches since Dec. 26 and sit eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, who visit Newcastle in Saturday’s late game.
Toothless Tottenham thought they had stolen the points in stoppage time when Lamela flicked Serge Aurier’s cross toward the goal, but Watford’s new signing Pussetto cleared off the line, with goal line technology showing just 10.04mm of the ball had not gone over.
“I know it was only a couple of millimeters but goal line technology does not make mistakes like VAR. We have to accept it was not a goal,” Mourinho said.
Arsenal are 10 points adrift of the top four after the Blades continued their superb first season back in the Premier League.
Gabriel Martinelli broke the deadlock in first half stoppage time at the Emirates Stadium.
The 18-year-old Brazilian striker claimed his ninth goal of the season with a clinical finish from Bukayo Saka’s cross.
But Chris Wilder’s side snatched an 83rd-minute equalizer when John Fleck lashed home after Arsenal failed to clear.
Bottom of the table Norwich’s vital 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Bournemouth saw the pitch side monitor finally used to decide a red card call.
Norwich took the lead when Bournemouth defender Steve Cook was sent off after flinging himself across the goal to block Teemu Pukki’s shot with his hand.
Pukki fired home the resulting penalty in the 33rd minute, but the Canaries had to survive a tense finish after Ben Godfrey was sent off in the 76th minute.