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Marussia F1 driver De Villota seriously injured in aero testing accident
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Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Jul 2012   |  12:00 pm GMT  |  99 comments

[Updated 16:00 BST) Maria de Villota, the Marussia test driver, has been seriously injured in a straight line aero test session at Duxford Aerodrome, according to local emergency services.

De Villota was in the early stages of a day of driving the Marussia car for the first time in the programme when she made contact with a truck.

An exact report of what happened has not been issued yet, but it seems she was at the end of an initial run and was manoeuvring close to the team’s operations tent, when she ran into the tailgate of a support truck, which struck her helmet.

The resulting injuries were described by the local ambulance service as “life threatening” and she was transferred to Adenbrookes’ Hospital in Cambridge, one of the UKs’s leading hospitals.

Around midday a report emerged that she was in a stable condition with head and face injuries.

A statement from Marussia at 15:00 BST said, “Since Maria’s arrival at the hospital at approximately 10.45hrs this morning, she has been receiving the best medical attention possible at the hospital, which is the region’s major trauma centre. Maria is conscious and medical assessments are ongoing. The team will await the outcome of these assessments before providing further comment.

“The team’s first priority at this time is Maria and her family.”

An earlier statement from the team had announced the accident like this, “At approximately 09.15hrs BST this morning, the Marussia F1 Team’s Test Driver Maria De Villota had an accident in the team’s MR-01 race car at Duxford Airfield where she was testing the car for the first time. The accident happened at the end of her first installation run and involved an impact with the team’s support truck.

“Maria has been transferred to hospital. Once her medical condition has been assessed a further statement will be issued.”

Local police added that the accident was “low speed” while an East of England Ambulance service spokesman said, “A woman has sustained life threatening injuries and following treatment at the scene by paramedics, she has been taken to Addenbrookes Hospital for further care.”

The Duxford test was a significant one for the team, to confirm the new aerodynamic package on the Marussia, as team principal John Booth explained earlier in the week,

“We have a fairly significant upgrade for this race, comprising a new rear wing, exhausts, floor and side pods. I would have to describe this as our ‘first proper wind-tunnel generated upgrade of the season’; this is the first fully developed package that is not just a modification of existing elements.

“That is a big result in itself, aside from the performance step we hope it will bring us, as it means we have caught up with ourselves in terms of the diligent way in which we have approached and developed our Technical Partnership.

“We look forward to seeing what this brings, both at Silverstone and at Duxford Airfield beforehand, when we will be integrating the developments into our correlation programme. Duxford is also the first of our Test Driver Maria De Villota’s scheduled track days. She has been waiting patiently all year for this date to come around, so we look forward to seeing her in the car for the first time.”

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1

few comments about in-season testing needing to return because of this.

i dont think testing should come back because i think if we had testing again we woudnt be having the season were having.

since testing was banned the performance between teams has closed up & i think if testing came back the gaps would open up again.

this year for instance with testing teams would have already figured out tyres & got there upgrades working & as a result the championship/races woudn’t be so close & unpredictable.

what happened at this test is unfortunate but i dont think it shoudl be used as a reason to bring back proper testing. afterall we have had this testing for many years now & this is the 1st incident of any sort of occur on there airport runways.

2

For those using this to insist testing is brought back, Worth pointing out that this sort of straght line test on runways was still been carried out even when testing was allowed & would still be done even if testing was brought back.

Also teams are currently allowed to do straght line runs at actual circuits. They use runways because circuits in the UK tend to not have straghts long enough for them to get the data they need & they don’t want to spend the extra costs to travel to Paul Ricard (Which does have a straght long enough).

3

Apparently she lost the use of her Right Eye. Devasted by this news that in this era of F1 something like this can happen. I feel so sorry for her. Its the end of her career.

4

However she would have still gone under the truck, unless it has low bumpers or the like. A formula 1 car is very low. They would have to put temporary barriers in front of vehicles and equipment that had to be there. But one thinks the car would absorb the impact.

5

This is what happens when you let women around high performance vehicles. You let them fly fighter planes, they crash them into the ocean;you let them drive F1 cars, they crash them. Hopefully, this will be a lesson to all women that they should never forsake the kitchen for the race track unless they are grid girls

6

I am flabbergasted at some comments here. Tradegies and other hard times show exactly what kind of person one is. Thankfully, most people here are decent enough though.

My thoughts go out to her and her loved ones. Wish her well and a speedy recovery.

7

My prayers are with Maria de Villota, her family and friends.

8

I wish Maria well and pray she makes a full recovery.

Given all the resources and logistics that seem to have gone into running a test at an airfield why not just let teams have time for aero work at purpose built race tracks?

9
tom in adelaide

Or save the money, ban the silly straight line tests and extend FP1 sessions by an hour or so. Or, if the teams are worried about young drivers trashing the car, have a testing session the day after every third G.P. Silly little clauses like the straight-line tests and media shoots just open the door for cheaters and “boundary pushers” (aka RedBull).

10

Precisely. +1

11

First off, I join everybody here in hoping Maria makes a full and speedy recovery.

While I think it’s too early to speculate on the cause of the crash, I think it’s safe to say that the safety standards at the airfield are nowhere near those found at an F1 race weekend. Even before the crash, you had an F1 car running near 200 mph with no walls, no prepared runoff area, and on a surface that isn’t built/maintained for racing cars. In the “pit area” you had the car running in an area where it could hit all sorts of things, including the truck that De Villota hit.

Marussia isn’t to blame for this – all F1 teams run straightline tests in similar conditions. The blame for this lies squarely with the FIA for permitting tests like these to occur. F1 cars are unpredictable and dangerous beasts, and they should only be run on properly prepared race circuits staffed by professional safety workers.

It’s time for a controlled return to limited in-season testing and a ban on testing F1 cars outside of these tests. F1 safety standards are the highest in the racing world on a race weekend – why should standards drop for a test? The human cost of a serious accident is still the same whether it happens in front of Bernie’s TV cameras or on a random airfield.

12

It’s a private test. How can the FIA be liable for anything a team does? It is up to the team to make sure that any testing, exhibitions or running of the car is done in a safe manner.

This is 100% Marussia’s fault.

13

Seriously folks, please don’t speculate as to the cause of this accident. No matter how expert you think you are, you are not in this case. Let the team tell us what happened. Our thoughts should be with Maria for now. Get well Soon, Maria.

14

Hmm, not nice. Felt really bad this morning for MdeV but some encouraging news coming in lately.

Motorsport is dangerous, especially when F1 testing is conducted at improper facilites, this ban on in-season testing was a terrible idea since the beginning. You can argue and say this and that about cost-cutting measures but what if something fails at high speed, rear wing failure or tyre explosion – where do you go? No run-off areas, no safety barriers. Hope the FIA and the teams take a good look at what’s happened today and learn their lessons. Plenty of proper circuits in Europe for testing; cut driver salaries, get rid of fancy chefs, scale down motorhomes, save some cash for test sessions.

Also, make sure all drivers (including pay-drivers) are psycologically fit for racing, mean GP2/GP3 and F3 is filled with kids who are not suitable for a job of a racing driver. Even Vettel did his bit with stupid mistakes like Fuji 2007.

15

Thoughts and prayers with Maria and her family, and fingers crossed for a full recovery.

It’s too early in my view to speculate as to what caused the collision, and I only hope that once the reason is found steps are taken to prevent it happening again. What I would say, though, is that I feel it is time to look again at the need for F1 and other single-seater categories to be open cockpit. This was a freak accident, but it makes the risks all too apparent.

16

To those who have said that the anti-stall might have caused the accident, the technical regs require the clutch to become disengaged when the anti-stall is activated.

17

The Belgian F1 magazine F1i is saying that apparently she hit the truck and then the lift fell on her. So the lift was up before she hit the truck.

18
BasilBeDemented

Hope she’s OK

19

A truly awfull accident but sadly an avoidable one. A really simple change is to close the tail lift door and use other transporer doors when cars are running. Hitting just about anything else at that test would have been embarrassing, not “life threatening”

My thoughts are with her.

20

I wish a speedy recovery to the young lady.

But it really begs the question if she was the best candidate for Marussia’s test programme ? Or was it a marketing ploy ? In either case, it sounds like a lethal combination of inexperience and badluck to me.

21

Zombie I don’t think that’s fair. This kind of freak accident can happen to the best of them. Mario Andretti hit a service vehicle at Road America once and only a few months ago Jaun Montoya hit a jet dryer under caution.

I’m not sure this is the time or place to question her CV. Shes raced in the Daytona 24hrs and World Touring Cars. Okay she’s not Vettel but everything is relative. Just because she isn’t world champ doesnt mean that she can’t do a straight line test. If she did make an error so what? Whys that her fault surely that could just as easily be a briefing failure on the part of the team, it’s her first time in this car and it’s the teams responsibility to make sure she has all the information necessary not to end the day in intensive care.

When was the last time your watched a GP and nobody made a mistake?

22

Not sure what made you get your shorts in a knot, i am just saying what others have said before, it “may have been avoided” had it been an experienced driver.

Yes, a 32 year old former touring car,audi series/superleague driver ( places she won exactly nada! She has won a whooper 1 race in her 12 year racing career ! ) was signed because of her stellar talents, and eye-watering technical feedback – no! If that wasn’t a marketing ploy by Marussia, i don;’t know what is !

Both Andretti and Montoya were in race situation when those accidents happened with a full grid of cars around them. She was trying to park the darn car and ran straight into the truck – big difference !

23

“Race conditions” as in they were in a dang “race” !

I stand corrected.Maria de Villota should replace Seb Vettel or F Alonso with immediate effect. Such talent and skills should not go waste. Makes me wonder why she remained under wraps for 32 years, must’ve been a CIA plot !

Again, i wish a speedy recovery to the lady. And hope this is a lesson to the FIA to allow more in season testing for less experienced drivers, and a lesson to teams to choose drivers based on merit and not marketing opportunities.

24

well if you’d permit me the opportunity to respectfully disagree. [mod]

For your information the Andretti and Montoya incidents werent under race conditions they were under cautions and were examples of drivers losing concentration in relatively routine situations, like coming back to the pits in an unfamiliar car. De La Rosa hit his own mechanic during pit stop practice in Canada it happens all the time.

Your point about her racing record also doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. So she hasn’t won, Oliver Turvey has barely stood on the top step and he is mclaren’s test driver would you be so critical of his ability in the same situation? Why? Oh because he’s a bloke and you’re a misogynist.

Let’s assume for now that you are correct and the car did indeed get away from her. So what does that prove. As I said earlier that could just as easily be down to a poorly executed briefing on the part of the team. If she did make a mistake is that evidience that she isnt up to the job? I think most fair minded people, and those of us who don’t think it’s acceptable to aggressively respond to someone because they happen to disagree with your views would draw that conclusion. The point is we don’t know what happened and therefore I don’t think it’s fair to be critical of her when she’s lying injured in hospital.

25

Montoya’s actually happened under caution and he was all by himself on the portion of track he hit the jet-dryer… Just saying.

26

Maybe the KERS suddenly went active?

27
Christos Pallis

This team don’t have kers

28

Shocking. I wonder if the anti stall system kicked in and launched her forward unexpectedly.. I’m not too sure how these systems work.. But presumably not by completely disengaging the clutches.

Hope she makes a quick recovery!

29

Anti-stall disengages the clutch. Any system that lurges a car forward at speed would be incredibly unsafe and banned 100%.

I think this one was probably operator error.

(I know I would screw up my first time in an f1 car… If I ever got the chance.)

30

As any learner driver knows the best way to save a dying engine is to disengage the clutch. It sounds like the engine was misfiring but I don’t think it was anti stall.

I don’t think we should be trying to apportion blame on the poor woman. She may not be world champion but she’s still a highly skilled professional with enough experience of racing cars to be in the marussia in the first place.

31

Ah ok. Well perhaps it happened when it re engaged the clutch.. I know the driver wouldn’t have to manually

Re engage the clutch once it’s ‘pressed’ only speculation anyway I guess.. We’ll have to wait for someone in the know to report on it.

32

Had there been more experienced teams at this test, this may not have happened. This is a great reason for advocating more communal in-season testing, where there are bullet proof policies and procedures in place to ensure the safety of all concerned.

33

They are a very experienced team. Not only have they been in F1 for three years, but they have also raced in F3 for many years. Manor Motorsport (who actually run Marussia) have been around since 1990. I think they know what they’re doing when it comes to testing.

34

What a horrific accident :S

I must ask, though:

Given that it (in all probability) this wasn’t a car failure, are Virgin going ahead with the test?

Do teams run straight-line tests with a reserve driver, just in case?

35

Why do you say that? Do you think she mistook her right foot for her left foot and her finger slipped off the clutch?

36

We aren’t doing her, or any future young testers, any favours by ignoring the fact that maybe she shouldn’t have been in the car.

Drivers of F1 cars should have the experience and trophies to back up their chance to drive the fastest cars on the planet.

37

Disagree.

These are ‘cars’ is only the glibbest of interpretations. They are computers on wheels with lots of buttons, leaving room for lots of mistakes. Not helped by the fact that they are completely counter-intuitive to drive.

Secondly, that you can cite a parade of mediocrity at the back of the grid doesn’t refute the notion that they may not have had the talent to be there.

Karthykeyan raced in Superleague too, and won, twice. In her entire racing career, di Villota never even podiumed.

All I’m saying, is that she perhaps [likely] shouldn’t have been in the car, particularly when Pic and Glock were doing nothing that day. Also, that the accident should at least lead to some tighter regulations on who is allowed to get in these cars.

38

Well, she managed to test a Renault last year without hitting anything. She wasn’t fast, but she didn’t embarrass herself either.

Karthekeyan is no more talented than she is. Half of the drivers that have sat in the seats of Minardi weren’t either. Same with the latter years of Tyrrell and the original Team Lotus. They just happened to go one step further and get a race seat.

F1 has always had at least a few drivers that aren’t very talented. Right from the beginning, there were “Gentleman Drivers” that paid their way – wealthy men that bought fast cars from other teams and filled out the back of the grid. Some were talented, some were not.

These cars are still cars, when it comes right down to it. Four wheels and a steering wheel. It’s not rocket science to drive one in a straight line, or even in an exhibition (teams regularly throw in random people into their older cars for exhibitions in cities). F1 cars are fast, but it’s not like they are holy. They’re just fast cars. Look up Corse Clienti or the BOSS series.

39

When was the last time you saw an F1 car (or any other car) shoot off without warning? When anti-stall kicks in on the grid, a car stops, it doesn’t shoot forward at speed without warning.

A new driver, 1st time in an F1 car, one the 1st run, having a low speed crash. So yes, I would think she make a mistake in there somewhere.

40

Her “years of experience” amount to one year in Ferrari challenge (2005), one full season in Superleague (2010), two WTCC races, and one F3000. Her results speak for themselves.

There are literally 100s of racing drivers with more experience, better results, etc. She was in the car for the wrong reasons (particularly since Pic and Glock were doing nothing that day).

Now that’s no different than dozens of other drivers over the past decades, but now that something bad has [inevitably] happened, maybe it’s time to discuss the implications of it.

41

She tested for Renault last year. It’s not her first time in an F1 car. She’s also driven in Superleague, which are also high-powered open-wheel cars.

I didn’t say it was anti-stall (unless the clutch failed to disengage and the algorithm compensated with more throttle and instead of stalling, the car launched… not probable, but who knows?). The fact is that I don’t know what it is, and neither do you, so we probably shouldn’t blame someone with years of racing experience right off the bat just because she may not have the talent of Vettel.

If it was error, what do you think she did? There’s no launch control anymore, no KERS on the Marussia, anti-stall disengages the clutch. What mistake could she have possibly made?

42
Mike from Colombia

Terrible terrible news. I really hope that she pulls through.

43

I read about this earlier today via scarbs and I really hope she pulls through, truly awful news.

44

I’ll maybe get chastised for even considering a comparison like this, but a couple of years back there was demonstration held in Dubai by Renault F1. In this Romain Grosjean and the local Rally specialist Mohd Bin Sulayem were to have a drag race at the Dubai Autodrome in the 2008 F1 Renault cars. Bin Sulayem managed about 50m before his car lurched right into the track wall and he totalled the car – he was thankfully unhurt. He could not explain later what happened.

The only reason I mention this is to highlight what I think most of us already appreciate, that these machines are really not for the uninitiated. In unskilled hands they can be lethal. This was Maria’s first run in an F1 car…! I hope and pray she will be alright, but I have a feeling she won’t be driving one of these cars again. What a pity for her.

45

@ Ade : That’s the first incident i thought about. An inexperienced driver’s first time in an F1 car, and crashing it in a straight line.Mohd Bin Sulayem is a regional rally champ with many a titles under his belt. He drove straight into the barriers thanks to cold tires and lead-footed flooring the throttle! If my memory serves me right, he has stayed away from F1 cars since then !

46

Agreed.

They are called super-licences for a reason.

I can’t help but think that this is a situation of the car “getting away from her”. Which leads to a number of uncomfortable questions about testing, young drivers, and how to ensure that new drivers, when they are given the chance, are capable.

47

I think you need 300km of testing to get your superlicense.

48

Yes, but do we know if she had one?

There is a big problem in F1 ever since Kimi arrived– showing that an F3 driver CAN compete in F1. No one really addressed whether or not they SHOULD be allowed in the cars with so little experience, or more perhaps more importantly, credentials.

49

Whether it did get away from her or not, that truck should not have been there.

Can we also stop speculating at this time? I find it rather sick.

Our thoughts should go out to her and her family and loved ones, untill we know more, and more details are bound to come out soon. Let’s just wish her well for now, yeh?

50

Your right, something goes wrong, let’s close our eyes and just hope it never happens again.

Opening a discourse leads to establishing the preventative measures that will preclude these events in the future.

If there is a possibility that the anti-stall kicking in, the truck was just parked in the wrong place, or she just lost it, all scenarios should be dissected addressed; instead of just waiting for an outcome.

51

“This was Maria’s first run in an F1 car…!”

Was actually her 2nd time in an F1 car, She drove a Renault R29 at Paul Ricard last year.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsRjHOxoFD4

52

“This was Maria’s first run in an F1 car…!”

It was not.

She has previously tested for Renault.

53

Sounds awful! I hope you can give us some updates on her condition.

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