Maria de Villota: F1 test driver who lost eye found dead
The 33-year-old was found at a hotel in Spain days before release of her autobiography
FORMER Formula 1 test driver Maria de Villota, who lost her right eye in a crash last year, has been found dead in a hotel in Spain.
The 33-year-old, the daughter of F1 driver Emilio De Villota, was found in her room at around 7am this morning, according to reports. Emergency crews were called but were unable to revive her. A police spokeswoman in Seville, where she was staying, said: "We are assuming it was a natural death, but we cannot confirm anything."
Messages poured in from F1 and beyond after news of her death broke. Marussia, the F1 team for which she drove before her accident, said it was with "great sadness" that they heard the news. Other teams and drivers echoed the sentiment.
Her courage, determination and hope were an example and inspiration to many. She will be sadly missed by our sport.
— MERCEDES AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) October 11, 2013
Even though we're far away, the whole team's hearts and minds are with the family of Maria de Villota at this terrible, terrible time...
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) October 11, 2013
We'd like to echo the thoughts of the whole paddock and express our deepest condolences on the news of Maria de Villota's passing. RIP.
— Caterham F1 Team (@MyCaterhamF1) October 11, 2013
The BBC reports that De Villota was in Seville for the launch of her autobiography, which chronicles her accident and recovery. The Guardian says that the book, due out next week, is called Life is a Gift.
Other reports say she had been due to speak at a conference entitled "What Really Matters". It has now been cancelled.
De Villota was the first female driver to get behind the wheel of an F1 car since Katherine Legge in 2005 when she was hired as test driver for Marussia last year. But disaster struck as she returned to the team garage after a test run at Duxford airlfield in Cambridge.
She appeared to lose control of the car and hit a truck while travelling at between 30 and 40mph. The front of the car was destroyed in the smash and De Villota's helmet hit the side of the truck. She was trapped in the car for 15 minutes before paramedics were able to extricate her and get her to hospital.
"She lost her right eye but had reconstructive surgery and relaunched herself as a road safety campaigner, working with the FIA, motor racing's governing body. She was last seen on international television helping with the FIA campaign at the Spanish Grand Prix in May," reports The Times.. ·