For Aseel Al-Hamad, the moment that preceded the French Grand Prix marked the end of one era and the onset of what she hopes will be a new one.

Al-Hamad, who is from Saudi Arabia, drove a Formula One car for a lap of the Le Castellet circuit today, after a ban on women driving in the Gulf kingdom ended.

She climbed behind the wheel of a 2012 Renault as part of a parade of Renaults marking the company's return to the race, which was won by Lewis Hamilton.

"I believe today is not just celebrating the new era of women starting to drive, it's also the birth of women in motor sport in Saudi Arabia," Al-Hamad said (via Reuters).


"The most important thing I am looking forward to is to start seeing the next generation, young girls, trying (motor sports careers).

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

Women exuberantly took to the road at midnight, ending the world's last ban on female drivers.

King Salman ordered the ban to be lifted last September as part of reforms pushed by his son in what is a conservative Muslim kingdom.

The ban had come to symbolise a harsh subjugation of women.

"This is a day I've been waiting for," Dania Alagili told the Washington Post, "for the last 30 years."

A Saudi interior designer and business executive, Al-Hamad had driven the car, which Kimi Raikkonen drove to a victory in Abu Dhabi in 2012, this month and her lap went smoothly today.

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


Al-Hamad is the first female member of the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation and serves on the Women in Motorsport Commission set up by Formula One's governing body.

She also was the first woman to import a Ferrari into Saudi Arabia and has taken her 458 Spider to tracks around the country for workshops and track days.

She hopes that there will soon be female racecar drivers in her country.

"For sure, definitely. And this is going to be my mission in Saudi."