Ex-F1 test driver Maria de Villota found dead in a hotel room, aged 33

Maria de Villota

bbc.co.uk: Formula 1 reserve racing driver Maria De Villota has been found dead in a hotel room in Seville, Spain.
A police spokeswoman said: “We are assuming it was a natural death, but we cannot confirm anything.”

Spaniard De Villota, 33, lost her right eye in a crash last July while testing for the Marussia team.
She suffered severe head and facial injuries after colliding with a lorry at Duxford Aerodrome, Cambridgeshire, but had been cleared to resume driving.

A statement from her family said: “Dear friends: Maria is gone. She had to go to heaven with all of the angels. Give thanks to God for the year-and-a-half we had left together.”

De Villota, daughter of ex-Formula 1 driver Emilio, was reported to have been in the southern Spanish city to launch her autobiography.

The police spokeswoman said forensic scientists and officers from the homicide unit would examine the scene at the Seville hotel.

F1 teams and drivers have been expressing their shock at the news of her death.

Britain’s Jenson Button said: “It’s horrendous news. Very tragic, the girl has been through so much, more than most people go through in their lives. It has been tough for her but this is horrific news and a real shock to the whole paddock and the world of motorsport.

“We saw her this year in Barcelona. We were doing some work for a children’s charity and she was the first one to put her hand up to do it, and got a lot of other drivers involved – she was doing a lot for the community.”

Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn, who worked alongside De Villota as an ambassador for the Women in Motorsport commission,  told BBC Radio 5 live: “It’s really a shock to me.

“We were not too long ago all together in Paris when the FIA [motorsport governing body] ambassador programme was announced and I spent a day-and-a-half with her.

“I had so much respect for the courage she had and how she fought against all the odds and I’ll always remember her having a smile, no matter what happened.

“After the accident everybody else would have thought she doesn’t really want to have anything to do with motorsport.

“But no – there she was, texting away and saying she wants to be back as soon as possible. She found a position in the FIA and if somebody could be convincing about the messages and the strength she gave it was definitely her.

“It didn’t take her any time at all until she was back; she was planning maybe even to drive but more important to her was to give other people the courage that you can still do so much even if you’ve had such a major setback.”

De Villota’s former team, Oxfordshire-based Marussia said: “It is with great sadness that we learned a short time ago of the news that Maria has passed away.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Maria’s family and friends at this very difficult time.”

Caterham reserve Alexander Rossi, an occasional analyst for BBC Sport, said: “Absolutely stunned and heartbroken to hear Maria De Villota has passed away. My thoughts and prayers go out. We will never ever forget you.”

The Mercedes team added: “Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Maria de Villota following the tragic news of her passing.

“Her courage, determination and hope were an example and inspiration to many. She will be sadly missed by our sport.”

De Villota had previously competed in Spanish Formula 3 and the Daytona 24 Hours race in the United States.

Last year, she spoke movingly about the initial recovery stages following her accident and recalled: “The surgeon came up to me with my family around him and said: ‘Maria, we have saved your life, I don’t know if you remember you had a serious accident but we have to tell you that you have lost your eye’.

“I asked him: ‘Are you a surgeon? Do you need both hands to operate? I am a Formula 1 driver and I need both eyes to drive.

“Before, I only saw F1, I saw myself in a car competing. I did not see what was important in life, the clarity to say: ‘I am alive’.

“It has given me my bearings, given me back what’s important. I accept it with the energy to say I am going to live out this chance 100%.”


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