Maria de Villota: 1980-2013

Maria de Villota was only 33-years-old but she was found dead in Seville Spain where she was to present her new book, Life is a Gift, that recounted her experiences and the road to recovery from a near-fatal accident she had in July last year.

De Villota had been testing for Marussia in a straight-line aerodynamic test at Duxford airfield when her car accelerated and clouted a hauler. Maria lost an eye and suffered a fractured skull in the incident.

The Formula 1 paddock was shocked at the news as they prepared for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. Marussia said:

“It is with great sadness that we learned a short time ago of the news that Maria de Villota has passed away.

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

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh said:

“She was an inspiration not just to women in this sport, but also to all those who suffered life-threatening injuries,” said Whitmarsh

“Her story, determination and subsequent inspiration flowed from F1 through sport as a whole, and to see the images of her in Barcelona on the grid earlier this year, surrounded by a throng of jubilant children, told a great story.”

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso learned of the passing of De Villota when he stepped out of his car after practice and was still in shock:

“I had only just taken my helmet off when I was told about her death and at the moment, I still can’t believe it and need a while to stop and think about it,” the Spaniard said after practice for the Japanese Grand Prix.

“It’s very sad news for the world of motorsport as Maria was loved by everyone. Now, all we can do is pray for her and for her family.”

Police have released an initial statement saying that it appeared she died of natural causes. An autopsy has been scheduled. The family of De Villota released a statement via Facebook:

“Dear friends: Maria has left us.

“She had to go to heaven like all angels. We are thankful to God for the extra year and a half that he left her with us.”

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