12 Oct 2013

Former F1 test pilot De Villota found dead

6:33 am on 12 October 2013

One of the few women to come close to the top of Formula One, the former Spanish test driver Maria de Villota, has been found dead in a hotel in the southern Spanish city of Seville.

It's likely De Villota, who lost her right eye and fractured her skull in a horrific accident at a test at Duxford airfield in England in July last year, died of natural causes, a police spokeswoman says, adding that an investigation was ongoing.

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

De Villota, the daughter of former F1 racer Emilio De Villota, was appointed test driver for Anglo-Russian Formula One team Marussia a few months before her crash. However she never took part in a general test with other drivers.

Only a handful of women have driven Formula One cars in the last decade and none has come near to racing one in competition.