Desperately sad news this morning that former Marussia reserve driver Maria de Villota has been found dead in a hotel room in Seville. You will recall the awful accident de Villota suffered last year testing Marussia’s F1 car at Duxford. The accident caused appalling head injuries and Maria lost her right eye.
It was nothing less than inspirational when she reappeared just three months later sporting a striking eye-patch and a determination to put the accident behind her. She has spoken frankly of adjusting to life with one eye and was preparing to launch a biography just next week, entitled ‘Life is a Gift’.
Maria’s father Emilio raced a private McLaren M23 in the world championship and in non-championship F1 series and passed his passion on to his daughter. Racing in F3, in touring cars, in GTs and in the now defunct Superleague Formula in Athletico Madrid’s colours, Maria impressed everyone she worked with, especially Eric Boullier who gave her a run in a 2009 Renault F1 car in 2011. The test would lead to her deal with Marussia.
33-year-old Maria had recently been rewarded her driving licence and had spoken about being back in her natural environment, a place she clearly loved to be. Her family broke the news this morning via Facebook: “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.”
The news has certainly thrown a terrible pall over the F1 community practising for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix, and Maria’s family must be touched by the sheer volume of compassion coming from the east, to which Top Gear can only add.