Race Car Driver Maria de Villota Found Dead at Spanish Hotel

Friday, 11 Oct 2013 09:15 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Race car driver Maria de Villota was found dead Friday in a hotel room in the Spanish city of Seville. The 33-year-old former Formula One test driver is said to have died from natural causes, according to Spanish police, however an autopsy was under way, the Associated Press reported.

De Villota sustained a serious head trauma during a crash last year in England while test driving for the Marussia F1 team. The crash kept her hospitalized for a month and caused her to lose her right eye.

Immediately following her death, De Villota's family posted on her Facebook page: "Dear friends: Maria has left us. She had to go to heaven like all angels. I give thanks to God for the year and a half that he left her with us."

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In addition to her work as a Formula One test driver, de Villota also drove in the world touring car championship in 2006 and 2007, and the Superleague open-wheel series, the AP noted.

A Madrid native de Villota was the daughter of Emilio de Villota, a well-known former Spanish racecar driver who participated in 15 Formula One World Championship Grand Prix.

After learning of de Villota's untimely death, the Marussia team shared their condolences from the Japanese Grand Prix.

"It is with great sadness that we learned a short time ago of the news that Maria de Villota has passed away," Marussia said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Maria's family and friends at this very difficult time."

De Villota's death shocked and saddened drivers and F1 officials as news spread throughout the sport.

"The whole paddock is very shocked by the news that Maria is no longer with us," McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said, speaking as chairman of the Formula One Teams' Association. "She was an inspiration not just to women in this sport, but also to all those who suffered life-threatening injuries."

"If anybody represented strength and optimism, it was Maria," added Sauber's Monisha Kaltenhorn, the first female team principal in F1. "Her sudden death is a big loss to the motorsport world."

"She had such a spirit for life. What she came through was a testament to her strength of character and her positive outlook on life," added fellow driver Susie Wolff.

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On Monday, De Villota was scheduled to present her autobiography, "Life is a Gift," at a conference in Seville. The book detailed her struggles following her accident.

Related stories:

Jason Leffler Dies in NASCAR Crash in New Jersey at Age 37

Dick Trickle Dies: Colorful NASCAR Racer Apparent Suicide at 71

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