Formula One cars, we’re told, are very hard to drive.
They’re highly strung pieces of machinery that rely on speed to work. If you’re not going fast enough, the tires don’t get warm enough to grip. Brake too gently and there’s not enough heat in the braking system to make them work. Take a bend too slowly and not enough air goes over the wings to maintain downforce.
It seems that Renault Sport Formula One doesn’t agree that F1 cars are hard to drive, and has set out to prove it with the help of 79-year old Rosemary Smith.
Smith took to the wheel of a Renault F1 car at the famous Circuit Paul Ricard. The track, near Le Castellet, will host the return of the French Grand Prix next year. Although it’s not known how many laps she got through, the Irish-born former seamstress got to grips with the car quickly — and soon started to worry under-pressure Renault driver Jolyon Palmer.
However, Smith isn’t exactly your average 79-year old woman. She’s a former rally driver of some note — winning the Tulip Rally in 1965 and victim of a controversial disqualification from the 1966 Monte Carlo, along with the famous Mini Coopers. Following her rally career, Smith set up her own driving school, using Renault Clios.
After her drive, Smith commented: “Driving an 800 bhp 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.”
“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.”
Renault isn’t just extending the invitation to decorated motorsports pioneers however. Anyone who test drives a Renault at one of the UK’s dealerships will be entered into a draw to follow her. There’s ten places up for grabs in total.
You can watch Rosemary Smith getting to grips with the F1 car below: