Maria de Villota found dead in hotel room

Maria de Villota

Maria de Villota

Former Spanish Formula 1 test driver Maria de Villota, one of the few women to come close to the top of the sport, has been found dead in a hotel in Seville, a police spokeswoman said on Friday.

De Villota, who lost her right eye and fractured her skull in a horrific accident at a test in England in July last year, had likely died of ‘natural’ causes, the spokeswoman said, adding that an investigation was ongoing.

“We are assuming it was a natural death, but we cannot confirm anything,” the police spokeswoman said, adding that forensic scientists and police from the homicide unit would examine the scene.

Although the 33-year-old recovered from the life-threatening injuries sustained in the crash, she no longer competed and had instead become an inspirational figure for aspiring female drivers and was due to present a book detailing her experiences on Monday.

Maria de Villota was a Marussia development/test driver

Maria de Villota was a Marussia development/test driver

The daughter of former F1 racer Emilio De Villota, she was appointed test driver for Anglo-Russian team Marussia a few months before her crash.

She never took part in a general test with other drivers but was one of only a handful of women to have driven F1 cars in the last decade. None, though, have come near to racing one in competition.

The news of her sudden passing stunned Spain and the motor racing world.

“I feel I owe it to her (to say something) because, out of the paddock and out of the motorsport bubble, she was an incredible character, she was a fighter,” Susie Wolff, a Williams development driver who had a test for the team last July and knew De Villota well, told Reuters.

“She had such a spirit for life and what she came through was a testament to her strength of character and her positive outlook,” added the Scot from the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka.

Maria de Villota tested for Lotus at Paul Ricard in 2011

Maria de Villota tested for Lotus at Paul Ricard in 2011

“After the accident she was so behind me and had such a lust for life, she was so happy to be alive and that she’d survived it and she had so many great plans for the future.

“She was just an incredible lady, no matter about what she did on the racetrack. She was just an incredible character.”

Spanish F1 driver Fernando Alonso appeared lost for words in an interview with radio broadcaster Cadena Ser shortly after hearing the news.

“I really don’t know what to say,” he said from Suzuka. “Pray for her and her family and the whole motor sport family. She was really loved by everyone.”

De Villota’s family posted a brief message on Facebook.

Maria de Villota drove in the Superleague Formula in Atletico Madrid colours

Maria de Villota drove in the Superleague Formula in Atletico Madrid colours

“Dear friends. Maria has left us. She had to go to heaven like all the angels. We give thanks to God for the year and half more he allowed her to be with us.”

The crash occurred at Duxford airfield after De Villota had completed a test run and was returning to the mechanics. The car suddenly accelerated into the back of a team truck with her helmet taking much of the impact.

She was taken to Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s hospital and had an emergency operation that began on a Tuesday afternoon and kept her in theatre until the following morning.

Speaking in public for the first time since the accident in October last year, an upbeat De Villota, who married her personal trainer Rodrigo Garcia Millan in July, said the best part of her life was still to come.

Maria De Villota attended the 2013 Spanish GP

Maria De Villota attended the 2013 Spanish GP

Wearing a patch over her eye socket and with her blonde hair cropped close to the skull, De Villota thanked all those who had helped and supported her and said she now believed she had “a new opportunity to live at 100 percent”.

She said she was determined to stay involved with F1 in some form and being a role model for aspiring young female drivers was extremely important to her, she added.

“I have motor sport in my DNA and there’s no way I can stay away from that world,” she said. “I want to keep fighting because I believe so strongly in women being part of motor racing.”

“The crucial thing was to get back some optimism about the future, that’s what helped me to get my interior motor running again. I am sure that the best is still to come.” (Reuters)

Subbed by AJN.

  • Tamburello_1994

    That’s puts a damper on my race weekend.

    Rest in peace Maria.

  • Ankit

    This is really really sad! You were a really strong woman.

    Rest in peace Maria.

  • fapper

    RIP…

  • The Pessimist

    You will always remain an inspiration to us all for being Positive, Brave and Strong……..R.I.P Maria.

  • ADF

    I apologise for the strong language but what the F?

    I think most of us would agree that, after making such a strong and determined recovery, she was one of the last people you’d expect to pass away.

    RIP and our condolences

  • Snowman

    Wow. Was not expecting this at all, a very saddening event indeed. She seemed very optimistic and full of life.

    RIP

  • Hawk

    RIP Maria de Villota

  • K-15-

    saddened to hear this. R.I.P Maria. Prayers & thoughts with her family and friends.

  • hillside

    RIP

  • hmmmmmm

    This is verry sad, all the strength to her family especially the children if she had any. Maybe it’s due to internal bleeding or infection that was hard to track. The one thing I hope is that it isn’t because she knew something about the crash that could have discredited Marussia, or even F1 as a whole. Because I’m still not convinced about Ayrton’s “accident” too. Frank knows more and Adrian does not have to question if it was driver error, because “driver error” in that situation could have been suicide like some like to speculate. As far as I’m concerned it was sabotage on his car. (search “Senna files” in google)

  • Jack

    A tragedy, after coming back from that horrific accident.

  • Abhinav

    RIP Maria what u wanted to be – a role model for aspiring female drivers, i strongly believe this world will surely remember you as a role model and a strong lady who fought hard but just fell short of life to achieve the biggest reward, but still i am not sorry for u coz it wud be an insult to your contribution and love for sport. You will always be loved.

  • Perice

    Rest in peace Maria de Villota

  • Junior_Johnson

    Hi mmmmmmmmmmn you have reely made me think.do you think that maybe marussia could have killed her or maybe even berny.This is quet shocking and scars me what you say.
    Now you are saying that horners clown newey killed senna to.
    Maybe Newey didnt want senna going back to maclaren and telling patty low how to build a car just like that.
    Are you sure you are right about these things mmmmmmn.
    This is making me very scard

  • McLarenfan

    Total shock. After such a strong recovery.
    The truth about your accident will still come out.

    Rest in peace Maria.

  • hmmmmmm

    Junior Johnson, I know this may seem a bit out there. I didn’t mean to be “joking” about this situation and I know what it means to lose someone dear, I lost my mum last year at a verry young age. I made my statement above, because there are rumours it was suicide. I just can’t believe that someone who overcomes such horror would take her own life (ok she knew the racing career was over but she was a role model for so much more things). I just was thinking to myself what if (what if!) her lawsuit would have ucovered some things that could have discredited (even destroyed) Marrusia or F1 as a whole. If that’s the case (because the trial was coming) it isn’t that hard to make somebody disappear and make it look like suicide, certainly on high levels like this (we have enough proven cases from the past). And I brought the Senna case up just to show what hypocritical liars the FIA are. go to: www(dot)ayrton-senna(dot)/s-files/start(dot)html or google senna files and look for yourself. I do not care if we “the public” never know the true circumstances of her death but I do sincerely hope her family does. And I hope her father takes on the lawsuit to reveal the truth of the accident, that it doesn’t get settled under the table now she’s past away. I’m truly sorry if I offended anyone.

  • fools

    God Bless her soul

    RIP

  • Snowman

    THis was on wikipedia, so I don’t know how creditable the information is, but:

    “An autopsy confirmed de Villota had suffered a cardiac arrest, with it being believed that the underlying cause may have been a ‘detachment of brain mass’ as a result of her 2012 accident.”

  • Esteban

    Just like David Carradine! :o