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Motorsport world rocked by tragic death of Maria de Villota
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Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Oct 2013   |  8:11 am GMT  |  115 comments

The motorsport world is in mourning for Maria de Villota, who was found dead in a hotel room in Seville. She was 33.

According to the BBC, a police spokeswoman said: “We are assuming it was a natural death, but we cannot confirm anything.”

De Villota rose to prominence in the last year as a campaigner for safety after she lost an eye in a testing accident with Marussia F1 team at Duxford in the summer of 2012. She became an ambassador for the FIA and appeared on the platform at the FIA Sports Conference week in Goodwood in June, speaking about safety.

“I should not be here,” she said. “Last year I had my accident on 3 July. I woke up on 7 July and the doctors said I was a miracle. We cannot forget that motorsport is dangerous. I hear the word accident but for me an accident is something like a tsunami or being struck by lightening. You can not avoid them.

“Things that you can avoid are not accidents, so there is still a lot to do. The first thing is a regulation on aero testing in airfields. It’s not regulated. In Formula 1, we go into detail in the pursuit of excellence.

“When I go into schools and I see all children, they ask me what the best thing about Formula 1 is. I say it’s not about the speed, it s not about the glamour. It’s about doing things in the very best way. We need to do a lot more.”

She appeared in our JA on F1 July podcast from Goodwood.

A note from her family on her Facebook page this morning said simply,

“Dear friends: Maria has left us.

“She had to go to heaven like all the angels. We thank God for the extra year and a half he left her with us.”

A statement from Marussia team said, “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.”

De Villota, the daughter of former F1 driver Emilio de Villota, had been in Seville to take part in a media event around her new book all about her experiences.

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115 Comments
  1. Siobhan says:

    RIP Maria. You were an inspiration to all women who wanted to get involved in a male dominated sport. Hope your legacy will inpire many more xxx

    1. Stuart Harrison says:

      Well said. +1

    2. Tornillo Amarillo says:

      +1

      James, could be linked to the accident sequels, or medication?

      1. Carl Craven says:

        I agree with you, someone has suggested epilipsy may have played apart. Complete speculation obviously, Yellow Screw.

      2. puffing says:

        Cerebral stroke, after previous severe headache. Possibly, the rupture of an aneurysm of an intracranial artery. Intracranial aneurysms can be either present at birth (the decade of the 30 years of life is very typical for congenital aneurysm ruptures) or caused by his extremly severe head injury, which not only took an eye but also shattered his skull.
        RIP, María. Tu luz, que tan bien mostraste tras tu accidente, seguiá iluminando.

    3. Quade says:

      Yes, such a role model gone. So sad.
      RIP Maria de Villota, there are very few like you.

    4. phil_too says:

      +1
      Well said. Yes she is. I hope if I have a daughter she’ll be inspired by trail blazers like Maria and Sussie Wolf

  2. Krishna says:

    This is utterly sad news! RIP Maria.

  3. Martin says:

    Shocked to hear the news this morning very shocked, Maria lit up the F1 world for the short time she was involved and I for one will miss her, RIP Maria.

  4. RobertS says:

    Totally shocked by this. RIP Maria

  5. Howard P says:

    RIP, so sad to hear.

  6. i have written two responses and deleted both of them. what can one say really. at 33…. a real pity.

    1. W Johnson says:

      Third time lucky!

  7. AlexD says:

    but what happend really?

    1. Horno says:

      Final Destination.. like in the movies.

      R.I.P. and strenght to her family!

      1. KRB says:

        Umm, not the best analogy to draw on.

        Very sad news … any death is sad, but when it’s someone with such a positive spirit as hers, it’s even moreso.

        I hope the investigation into her accident finds the truth, and that positive lasting change comes out of it.

  8. Elie says:

    Such terrible news. My condolences to her family.

    Has a cause of death been established-? is it fair to say its still related to her injuries.

    1. Jimmy says:

      Everything points to a stroke, probably related to her accident. It’s such a shame, she was so full of life.

      Rest in peace, descansa en paz.

      1. Scott says:

        “Everything points to a stroke…”

        Does it? Not that it really matters, but that doesn’t seem likely.

      2. Seifenkistler says:

        A girl, then 17, in my class decades back died on a sneeze. She sneezed,headaches, ignored them first. After 4 hours her parent brought her to hospital where an emergency surgery was too late. Arteria in the brain got ruptured.

        With the amount of surgeries Maria had, there might have been a scar too much which weakened an arteria. So a stroke may have a high probability.

  9. Thalasa says:

    Shocking! She was such a brave person with a beautiful and sincere smile… Rest in peace.

  10. Martin Fry says:

    So sad -RIP

  11. Anne says:

    Words can´t express how sad I am right now. She was only 33. She was working at a spanish t.v. as commentator during pre race shows. She got married just 3 month ago! She was happy and enjoying life despite her horrible accident.
    My thought are with her family right now. R.I.P. Maria

  12. C Lin says:

    Omg what a tragic news.

    RIP Maria.

  13. Greg Wales says:

    Oh! RIP :-(

    James, Any word on the cause of death?

      1. Lindsay says:

        Did you read that article?

        It quotes a police spokesman making an assumption. BBC has made no statements regarding the cause.

      2. Danf1 says:

        I think you need to re-read the article. They don’t say it was natural:

        “A police spokeswoman said: “We are assuming it was a natural death, but we cannot confirm anything.””

        RIP Maria.

  14. Iceman says:

    Rest in peace Maria.

  15. Grant H says:

    Very sad news, :-(

  16. Rob Newman says:

    Unbelievable. Very sad. My thoughts are with her family and friends. RIP!

  17. Adam says:

    Very sad, I am full of admiration for her spirit and optimism after a terrible accident. Hopefully she will inspire other women to try to get the top of the racing mountain.

  18. IP says:

    Shocked and sad to hear this news.

  19. Delgado says:

    This is appalling.

    James, will the inquest around her crash continue?

  20. Scuderia McLaren says:

    That’s so terrible. That’s so unfortunate. I can have a quick guess about how it happened but there is little point discussing. I feel significant anger towards Marussia. I feel significant annoyance at teams quickly taking a cheque, then chucking people behind the wheel in some sort of demo or unregulated test so they can fulfill and understandable ambition of having a taste of F1. Sauber take note, you have a responsibility to Sirotkin even if he’s a willing participant. If he’s a danger, even to himself, don’t take the cheque.

    1. f1982 says:

      Scuderia McLaren:
      She wasn’t a fan who paid to ‘have a go’ in an F1 car. She was a highly skilled racing driver who was part of the test. Whether that test was for promotional purposes is irrelevant.
      Why would you feel anger towards Marussia for having a test session? The only way they are to blame is if they were negligent with the set-up of their car which caused the crash. As far as I’m aware that was not the case.

      1. Scuderia McLaren says:

        I never said she was a fan who wanted a go. I’ll leave it at that.

      2. Jonathan says:

        Whatever the immediate cause I cannot see how how anyone can say the team were blameless. Several thoughtless people allowed the tail lift to remain at the head height of a car driver – that is negligent. There is no way on earth that the car with engine running and a lorry in such a state should have been anywhere near each other. The team were negligent and, therefore, to blame for allowing a less than adequate approach to safety during the test.

        Today is another sad part of that incident.

      3. Scuderia McLaren says:

        +1

        I agree. It’s ludicrous.

      4. Brunom says:

        It’s my understanding that she hit the open tailgate that was opened at headlevel.

        If it was closed she, [the car ], may well have still hit the truck but not in the way she hit the tailgate.

        Basic health and safety, and it should not have been left open like that with testing going on.

      5. Brunom says:

        I’ve always had concerns about the fact that the truck she crashed into had its tailgate or lifting platform open, flat and horizontal and at racing head level whilst testing was going on ?

        Such sad news – may she R.I.P.

      6. KRB says:

        Forget the tailgate … why was the truck anywhere near such that it could possibly be crashed into?

      7. ManOnWheels says:

        If it hadn’t been the tail gate open it could have been a corner of the trailer, who knows?
        Needless to speculate about it, accidents happen and if the team had foreseen this danger they had made something differently. The open tailgate certainly did not look like a security problem for anyone until it happened, would you have noticed in this situation? I know I wouldn’t have! In each Formula One Pit stop during qualifying, race or training the same problem with the throttle/anti-stall/foot slip/whoknows could have easily killed more than one person, even though there is no tailgate in sight. Obviously you can’t foresee everything that might happen. Stop bragging about an open tailgate please, it is no use. There is no one to blame, it was an accident: improbable, unheralded and unwanted by everyone.

      8. Scuderia McLaren says:

        @manonwheels:

        Mate are you for real or what?! Who the F’s bragging about an open tail gate? There is a duty of care and even Maria doesn’t classify this as an accident. She’d know wouldn’t she?

        Get over yourself and let people have a thought/comment before jumping down their throats if their veiw doesn’t suit your idea.

    2. Random 79 says:

      Agreed.

      I like to think and hope that Sauber have been around long enough and have had enough experience with rookies to conduct themselves well with Sirotkin. Having someone so young driving for them next year has to be a concern for them.

      1. Athlander says:

        Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel made their F1 debuts aged 19.

      2. Matt says:

        According to something he said, even the great Alonso had problems in his first race weekend and almost had an accident in the pitlane due to forgetting the clutch operation.

        It shows the need the preparation, familiarisation and practice even for talented drivers. And of course a safe place in which to learn and practice with no dangerous objects about which could spear you if you make a mistake.

      3. Scuderia McLaren says:

        @Matt you are spot on mate.

    3. Sebee says:

      You are 100% right Scuderia.

    4. Zhenya says:

      Absolutely agree. When you are 25 you drive a road car in a different way, not to speak of an F1 car.

      Very sad…RIP

    5. Athlander says:

      She was perfectly fine testing for Lotus previously. You probably don’t know what sort of testing she was doing for Marussia: it was a straight line test on an airfield. Straight line tests are not the same as testing on a race circuit which may possibly have other teams testing at the same time and the likelihood of encountering other cars on track.

    6. Cliff says:

      It’s probably just me, but I don’t think today is a day for this discussion.

      1. Scuderia McLaren says:

        Why not cliff. If its respectful and sensitive than this is the perfect time for people who feel something sad to discuss it. We all mourn differently.

        We didn’t know her if course but most of us are shocked, especially as we know the context of her Marussia accident.

        One doesn’t have to comment, but equally one can allow others to comment on these things I think.

      2. louis dimascio says:

        +10000

  21. AuraF1 says:

    A motor sport tragedy – Maria may have died away from the track and the horrific incident where she had such life altering injuries but its a motor sport tragedy all the same. My thoughts are with her family.

  22. Luke says:

    I feel the need to disagree with you here. Maria de Villota was a professional racing driver and had competed in Superleague Formula with reasonable results. This makes her more than proficient enough to test a Formula 1 car and she had already done so with Lotus on a proper racetrack. She knew what she was doing and I think it’s disrespectful to suggest that she was not capable of doing what she was doing.

    All drivers have to drive a Formula 1 car for the first time at some point. Kimi Raikkonen, for example, had a lot less experience than Maria de Villota did when he first tested for Sauber.

    She was perfectly capable and what happened was a tragic, freak accident. May she rest in peace.

    1. puffing says:

      +1,000

    2. K says:

      I know it is politically correct to say this now, but she was not considered to be a good or even average driver by any standard. Even in the lower formula with some of her crashes and actions on the track which got her a bad rap/rep.

      1. louis dimascio says:

        I think you might find that isn’t politically correct

      2. Ellen says:

        It’s not about political correctness. It’s a matter of good manners.

      3. Luke says:

        She was a professional racing driver. That means she had driving talent you or I can only dream of. Please show some respect.

  23. Ryan says:

    Best wishes for the family and the friends of Maria. But how did she die? She’s a race car driver-they’re in extraordinary shape. This is very surprising to me, I was expecting Maria to regain her racing license once she’d adapted to monocular vision. And though she has had a pretty nasty crash; she did make a very strong recovery. I’m wondering if it was an unforeseen/undetectable complication from her previous injury, perhaps stroke or aneurism. Her spirits seemed very high, she was very motivated and responsible. It’s a shame.

  24. Don says:

    RIP Maria… very sad news… she was an inspirational and truly positive minded person.

  25. Sasidharan says:

    Shocked at this news! She was so inspiring in her speaches.
    May her soul Rest in Peace.

  26. James Nye says:

    Thank you for making my young daughter a fan of motor sport.

    Maria, R.I.P x

  27. Blaize says:

    This is truly horrific news!

    Assuming it was a natural death then it’s difficult to feel either she was blessed these extra 18 months or cursed with false hope.

    Her tale these last two years has been truly tragic.

    1. AuraF1 says:

      Since her memoir she was there to publish was about seizing life 100% even if it’s brief or damaged I think she’d have said blessed. It’s another tragedy but the fact she survived that accident and got to tell her story and get married and live more – even briefly – is a very good thing.

      1. Blaize says:

        That’s true

  28. Chris says:

    Such sad news, Rest in Peace and my thoughts go out to those loved ones she has left behind.

  29. Kieran Mathers says:

    Oh no! Such sad news. I hope it wasn’t untoward in any way, but that speculation is for another day. I’m so sorry for her husband and her friends.

  30. Dale says:

    I’m sad she’s no longer with us though, in my opinion she never should have been an F1 test driver in the first place [mod]
    As has been said elsewhere, the likes of Sauba need to pay special attention as many (me included) think it’s boarding on plain stupid and dangerous putting the young Russian in one of their cars next year

  31. simon mawdsley says:

    that would be a young Russian who is regarded by his peers as one of the best talents around…..much like when Sauber put Raikonnen in one of their cars, or Williams putting Bottas in one of theirs. MdV was a vastly experienced and capable driver, she wasn’t a billy like you or I. Her accident, as I understand, was a ‘freak’ occurence which could just as easily happened to any of the top rung of drivers.

    RIP Maria

  32. Cedgy says:

    Shocking news and tragic death! but strange story, surely there must be more to it. In the meantime RIP Maria

  33. Rishi says:

    Shocked to hear about this on the F1 Show this morning. Obviously my condolences go to the friends and family of Maria de Villota during this difficult time. The strength of character and positive attitude she displayed after her serious testing accident, combined with her continued involvement in motorsport to advance the causes close to her heart, will never be forgotten.

  34. Galapago555 says:

    Words can’t express my feelings. Thoughts and prayers are with María and her family.

    Descansa en Paz, María.

  35. Ryan Eckford says:

    Rest in peace Maria.

  36. nusratolla says:

    RIP Maria.

  37. Jake says:

    Sad news.
    I will always remember those colour coordinated eye patches.
    So brave, so young, so tragic.

  38. Gino Palermo says:

    Godspeed on the rest of your journey Maria

  39. KARTRACE says:

    Condolences to the family and her friends

  40. The Spanish Inquisitor says:

    Sequels of the accident, the most probable reason of Maria de Villota’s death.

  41. Johnny speedriff says:

    Very sad news, condolences to her family and friends. Maria had proven herself to be competent racing driver, and before she sustained those terrible injuries, I feel she would have eventually “made the grade” at some point. Godspeed, girl.

  42. gadfly says:

    A terrible tragedy. RIP Maria.

  43. Zombie says:

    RIP Maria.

  44. Randy_Torres says:

    Triste noticia y lamentable perdida. Mi mas sentido pésame a su familia. May she sleep among the tall trees.

  45. Jeijei says:

    She passed away at the age of Christ, condolences to Family, RIP Maria.

  46. Harvey Bushell says:

    Rest in Peace Maria. Condolences to her family and friends.

  47. Richard says:

    Such a lovely girl, and a great pity she’s gone. I suspect some aspect of the injury she received has caused this which we’ll no doubt learn in due course. I can only echo the feelings transmitted by many others for her family and friends at such a sad and difficult time.

    1. blanchesmith says:

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      1. blanchesmith says:

        Start working at home with Google! It¿s by-far the best job Ive had. Last Monday I got a new Alfa Romeo from bringing in $7778. I started this 9 months ago and practically straight away started making more than $83 per hour. I work through this link,

  48. Sergio says:

    Really sad new that affected me so much. My condolences to her family. Thank you – Gracias por todo María.

  49. Gabe says:

    Oh no..RIP Maria.
    I hope you they will have a moment of silence for her this weekend at the grand prix.

  50. Bart says:

    It’s so sad, she seemed to be a very positive, energetic and connected person. And a very strong one. May her positive energy stay with us as long as possible. RIP

  51. Thread the Needle says:

    Very very sad news, she had a real passion for F1

    RIP Maria

  52. Dino says:

    I knew personally Maria for a number of years, also her brother and her father, and still have great friends in common. I still remember the first race I saw her on person, some twelve years ago, it was a junior single seater formula. In one race she lost the nose of the car in an incident but she recovered through the field bravely to finish second. It would be her most defined skill through her career: determination. She was a lovely young woman with an incredible passion for motorsport, and always wanted to emulate her father who was British F1 Champion (the Aurora championship of the seventies) and once 4th at Le Mans. For any of us that have daughters who love motorsport because of their daddies, we have to feel for Emilio her father who should be passing the most difficult day of his life.

  53. Tim L says:

    Life is too short

    vaya con dios

  54. JB says:

    My first reaction reading the news was ‘shocked’. How can someone so young have ended her life so quickly?

    RIP, Condolences to her family and love ones.

  55. Goob says:

    She paid a high price for her short career – a tragedy all round.

    I didn’t agree with her safety in F1 point of view… too much of anything is bad.

    RIP…

  56. Peter Miles says:

    I have no interest in speculating as to wether her tragic death was linked to the accident, or trying to blame anyone for it.
    I just think it’s desperately sad that such a vibrant young person with so much ahead of her has gone.

  57. Die Scuderia says:

    We have MotoGP in Sepang this weekend…a race that is hard to take following Marco Simocheli tragic incident. And now this…Maria. May her soul rest in peace. Also…RIP Marco Simoncheli (we will never forget you no.58).

    DS

    1. John in San Diego says:

      Sadly, we also lost Dan Wheldon around the same time as Marco.

  58. Rod says:

    Terribly sad. Hope the family can find at least some consolation in the fact that she was admired and loved by so many around the world.

  59. Brian says:

    Well said. She was a charming, warm lady with great determination. Would be a mark of respect if the teams agree to leave the front row empty on Sunday.

  60. Stone the crows says:

    Very sad, I wish her family peace in a difficult time, it is a shame they did not have her for more time but at least they had a year and a half of grace.

  61. Moan Di Resta says:

    How very shocking and sad. My heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of Maria.

    Will Bernie allow a minutes silence on the grid? I sure hope so.

    Maybe us folks here on JA can remember Suzuka 2013 being ran in Marias honour.

  62. ashes says:

    Such sad news. Funny how motorsport “connects” people. Was feeling all nostalgic after murry interview & this news makes me feel sad. Not the time to speculate about cause of death & accident investigations. Maria, your course was cut short, but you have surely left a legacy.

  63. Tyemz says:

    An angel’s gone back home. RIP Maria.

  64. zx6dude says:

    very sad. RIP Maria

  65. Methusalem says:

    What an unfortunate woman,RIP, Maria! Has anyone noticed during Friday’s practice sessions? Everyone on the grid looked unusually heated and jumpy?

  66. Steven says:

    Incredibly sad news… What can you say when something like this happens? She should have been here for years to come to help inspire other women. I guess in a way, she still will be. God rest her soul….

  67. John in San Diego says:

    Very sad to read this shocking news. Sincere condolences to Maria’s family.

  68. Rein says:

    RIP Maria de Villota. Sincere condolences to her family.

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