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Maria de Villota, 1980-2013 11 Oct 2013

Maria De Villota (ESP).
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 12 May 2013 Maria de Villota (ESP) Marussia F1 third driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 20 April 2012 Maria De Villota (ESP) Marussia F1 Third Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 24 May 2012

Former Marussia test driver Maria de Villota has passed away, aged 33.

The Spanish racer, daughter of ex-Formula One driver and British Formula Three series champion Emilio de Villota, raced in several categories including Spanish F3 and sportscars before joining Marussia as a test driver in March 2012.

In July of last year De Villota was involved in a serious accident during a straight-line test with Marussia at the UK’s Duxford airport, sustaining life-threatening head injuries and losing her right eye. She spent a month in hospital, but went on to make a strong recovery.

De Villota continued to be involved in motorsport, becoming an Ambassador for Women in Motorsport with Formula One racing’s governing body, the FIA, and also participating in both the FIA Drivers’ Commission and its Action for Road Safety campaign.

A statement on De Villota's Facebook page, signed by her family, read: "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."

The Marussia team said in a statement: “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.”

As news of De Villota’s passing spread through the Suzuka paddock in Japan on Friday, numerous teams and drivers paid tribute to their former colleague.

Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn, who worked alongside De Villota as a fellow Ambassador for Women in Motorsport, said: “We are shocked to hear the news of Maria de Villota’s death and would like to offer our sincerest condolences and heartfelt sympathy to her family and friends for this tragic loss.

“If anybody represented strength and optimism, it was Maria. Her sudden death is a big loss to the motorsport world as she was an important ambassador for relaying important messages to the youth, and particularly girls that aspire to a career in motorsport. Maria was an example of someone who never gave up, she always had a smile on her face and we will dearly miss her.”