JEDDAH: Aston Martin Racing ambassador, racer and film stunt driver Jessica Hawkins has proved to the world that female drivers can excel in motorsports.
Her young career has brought her many highlights, and now she is attending Saudi Arabia’s second Formula One Grand Prix weekend in Jeddah.
Hawkins, who hails from East Hampshire in Britain, made her professional motorsports debut in the British Formula Ford at Silverstone in a one-off event where she twice finished inside the top 10.
Currently competing in the W Series and the British Touring Car Championship, Hawkins told Arab News that the ratio of female to male drivers entering motorsports has tipped in favor of women in recent years, and while significant progress has been made, she is calling on more women to pursue racing careers.
“It’s not something that’s going to happen just overnight. It does take time, but I do think that it is recognized and we are pushing to make changes.” Hawkins said. “When I first started there weren’t many females, but certainly, Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One team are a driving force behind that, or at least one of the driving forces behind that because there are a good few females within the team.”
Hawkins addressed students at the British International School of Jeddah on Thursday ahead of the race weekend, telling them what it means to be a woman racing driver in the male-dominated sport.
“They were all so cute and really heartwarming, and if I can help even just one of them pursue a career in something that they would love to do, then? I don’t know what to say, they were all really enthusiastic.
“Hopefully, they all listened and they’ll all work hard in school and hopefully, I’ve helped them realize that there’s more to racing than just the driving, there are loads of different areas of motorsport, and they should, if they like motorsport, go and explore all the different avenues within motorsports.”
Hawkins said she pursued a racing career because she was always an sporty kid and one day asked her father to let her go karting.
“I begged my dad to let me have a go and he was unsure at the time. It must have just stuck in my mind and I kept begging him to take me back and let me have a have a go. So it’s not something that I just decided one day, it was just a passion that I followed.”
However, a racing career doesn’t come without its many obstacles, and pushing through gender stereotypes was a regular effort. Finding financial backing was another major challenge.
“Honestly, my main obstacle was finding the budget to go racing, because it’s no secret that racing as a driver can be very expensive, in all areas of motorsport,” the British racing driver said. “You have to bring in budgets to be able to raise which I really struggled to find the sponsors and the backers and have the funding to do that. But, you know, I’ve kept trying, and I never give up, so while it was frustrating at the time, actually paid dividends now.”
Hawkins returned to the VW Cup in 2018, and spent most of that year working as a stunt driver on Fast and Furious Live.
“Never did I ever think that I was going to be stunt driving for big productions like that, they’re amazing, and an opportunity and experience that I will never, ever forget,” she said. “Fast and Furious Live was arguably one of the best times in my life and I'll hold those memories so deep in my heart.”
Hawkins continued working as a stunt driver in 2021, featuring on the James Bond film “No Time to Die,” and in May of that year became Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team’s ambassador.
“I do a lot of work with the sponsors and a lot of hot laps, which is good. That’s always fun,” she said. “I interact with Seb and Lance, and Hulk (male F1 drivers), I’ll often go on track walks with them. And honestly I’ll just learn as much as I can off of them them.
“They’ve obviously got a wealth of experience behind them, way superior to mine. So anything that I can learn and pick off of them is obviously an advantage to me.”
The Jeddah race weekend starts on Friday, with the first practice set for 5:00 p.m. before the second practice at 8:00 p.m.