Rosemary Smith, a 79-year-old former seamstress, driving instructor and rally driver, became the oldest person to drive an F1 car by getting behind the wheel of an 800bhp Renault machine at Paul Ricard circuit.
Rosemary has led quite a life. A supremely quick rally driver back in the 1960s, she fought for years to be taken seriously by her male competitors, whom she often beat. Her rallying days are now behind her, but when Renault approached her to see if she wanted to drive a V8, 800bhp Formula One car to help celebrate the firm’s 40 year involvement in the sport, she didn’t hesitate to say yes.
“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.”
“At my age, I should be sitting at home doing my knitting,” Smith jokes. Instead, she found herself at Paul Ricard circuit in France, becoming the oldest person to ever drive an F1 car, guided by 2014 GP2 champion and current Renault Sport driver Jolyon Palmer. 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.
“You’ve got to go out there with this fire in your belly. You have to have passion,” Smith concludes. Hard to argue with that.
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