F1 Winter Break
Marussia report: Car not at fault in De Villota testing accident
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Jul 2012   |  11:30 am GMT  |  144 comments

Marussia F1 team has issued a carefully worded statement today saying that after internal and external investigations into the accident at Duxford this month which hospitalised Maria de Villota, a technical problem with the car has been ruled out.

John Booth, the Marussia team principal said, “We are satisfied that the findings of our internal investigation exclude the car as a factor in the accident.”

Although the report does not say it explicitly, the implication is that the accident was down to the driver. De Villota, the team’s test driver, who had just completed the first straight line aero testing run of the day, was manoeuvring at low speed close to the team’s test base off the main runway when the car ploughed into the back of a truck. The tailgate impacted with her crash helmet and she has subsequently lost an eye and had extensive reconstructive surgery on her face.

The Marussia team has forwarded the results of its investigation to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) which is responsible for all regulation of accidents in the workplace.

The team statement says, “Having carefully examined all the data and supplementary information available at that time, the Team were satisfied that there were no such car-related issues and cleared its chassis for race weekend participation.

Following its initial investigation, the Team proceeded to carry out further detailed analysis of the accident. An external forensic investigation was commissioned and carried out at Duxford Airfield (a FIA-approved and much used testing venue, compliant with the recommendations for a test of this nature) and with the team at the Marussia Technical Centre in Banbury. This external analysis has been carried out autonomously of the team’s own internal investigation.”

Booth added that the team is focussed on De Villota’s wellbeing, “We have now concluded our investigatory work and can again focus on the priority, which continues to be Maria’s wellbeing. In that regard, we continue to support Maria and the De Villota family in any way we can.”

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The accident may have been driver error, but the blame for the severity of the accident surely has to lie with the team. The fact that this girl has lost an eye because someone decided to leave a ramp, essentially a sharp blunt object at driver head height is simply, in my mind, unacceptable. I have read some people say it was a freak accident, which I don't really buy. It would have been an avoidable accident if proper safety measures had of been in place.


absolutely agree.

tom in adelaide

A number of reports claimed that the ramp fell down after she hit the truck. Without knowing the details of the crash I think it's a little harsh to judge the faceless "truck guy".


Respectfully, I say that's probably not true. I've spent a lot of time working such lifts and stepping up and down on them. They're hydraulic. For it to "fall down" there would have to be a hydraulic rupture, or a major mechanical breakage. There was no puddle of hydraulic oil in any photo I saw, and I really doubt that a light carbon-fiber car at 30-40 MPH could shear off the heavy steel mechanicals of the lift. I doubt if they were even bent.

No, I think the lift was right where it's shown in the photo -- before she hit. That's common practice, so people can carry small things into and out of the truck without having to operate the life. In fact most times these trucks are left with the life halfway.

But it should never have been left like a guillotine right in front of the pit box. That is negligence, and would lose in court. Think about it, a burglar sued for slipping while illegally robbing someone's house -- and won. This was worse.


Very well said. If you're using drivers who haven't had experience operating idiosyncratic F1 cars, the whole operation needs to be very carefully considered to stop things like this from happening. I really hope procedures are looked at as a result of this accident.


Here here!! At head height she would barely be able to see it, let alone judge her distance to it. The team is culpable and should be paying out due to negligence.


I concur exactly. It's entirely possible that she didn't even see the ramp because it was at eye level and was just accelerating to turn around.

Whatever caused her to drive into it raises questions about the risk assessment done prior to the test. The most vulnerable part of the driver is their exposed head so having the operate somewhere that the car can be buried beneath and have the head take the impact should be flagged as one of the biggest dangers. Even without the ramp, having the car operate so close to the trailer of an articulated lorry is a huge potential hazard. If the truck needs to be so close to the operational area then some form of crash barrier should be erected.

And this is not a case of hindsight, the risks of the driver's exposed head has been identified for over 15 years since they started putting side protection on the cockpits.


Why would you consider a truck which would be located some distance away from the high speed running as a danger?

Should the FIA now look to empty the pitlanes of any possible obstructions (like building buttresses) and move to an IRL pit-road format?

Of course not.

Should they stop mechanics entering the pitlane until the cars are stationary to prevent a repeat of the Sauber incident last weekend?

Of course not.

Sh!t happens in life, this is just another unfortunate instance of it.

Wrapping everyone and everything in cotton wool may appeal to the hand-wringers - but beyond a point it is certainly bad for both businesses and individuals.


suggesting the truck shouldn't be there isn't some far-out suggestion like some of you seem to suggesting. Is it that crazy to suggest their makeshift pit area should have been treated exactly the same as a real pitlane at a real racetrack? You would not find a truck parked in a pitlane during an F1 practice session. And certainly not with the loading ramp down at visor height facing oncoming F1 cars.


Look it isnt the teams fault or for the matter that there was a truck parked there. The accident was because she was not experienced enough to drive a F1 machine at high or low speed. If you dont believe me check out Luca Badoer rear end collision in parc ferme. And he has 10 years of experience testing for ferrari and yet he was caught speeding in the pit-lane four times during Friday practice and caused a parking accident. I would put my money on maria being overwhelmed and excited driving a f1 machinery in front of her family and friends and must have tried to show off by late braking causing the brakes to lock up, remember f1 doesnt have anti lock braking. Since it has already been proved that it was no car/team error there is only one conculsion that it is a driver error. Her version will soon come where she will admit that she misjudged her braking point. Its actually ridiculous to suggest that capable F1 drivers cant drive an f1 machine at low speeds to avoid driving into stationary trucks. In fact during races there always trucks on the race track and I dont see drivers crashing into them even at the high speeds they run behind the safety car. Besides visor or no visor she should have seen the truck



I agree with you, Amiga, wholeheartedly! And in any case the car had a brake pedal and a steering wheel both of which are there to enable a driver to avoid hitting things!

I noticed there were no tyre marks on the track surface behind the car, indicating the brakes were not being deployed, I wonder if Maria had "blacked out/feinted" after the adenalin rush of driving the car.



The fact is that pit lanes and paddocks at permanent race facilities will have been assessed with safety in mind. I think it's fair to question whether temporary facilities at airfield tests are receiving equivalent consideration.


Oh and I'm not replying specifically at you Les; there are several comments similar to yours that I would repeat the above to - yours just happened to be top of the list.




these things do happen. Look at poor Henry Surtees. That wheel could have gone anywhere, yet do we bad open cockpits and force the teams to run solid rubber tyres so the whole assembly can be firmly bolted to the car?

Had the tail lift been slightly lower or higher the implications would have been much less. Learn to take more care but don't beat up on the team too much as it was just an accident that had implications far beyond those you would expect.


Yes, I absolutely close doors when I'm not in the area. Even if I knew nobody else was home, what if the phone rings and you're going to get it before the final ring and end up smashing yourself on it? [mod] All because you didn't close the door.

The lift gate being down was human error, and someone is responsible. If you really want to take it one step further into an industry standard, the gate should have had some sort of reflective tape on it so when it is down forklifts and such don't run into it when it's in its actual element.

The point is moot, a mistake was made and someone is paying a high price for it.

Enjoy your stubbed toes though 😛


So, if as you say "sh*t happens in life"... why using helmets, safety belts and so many safety devices? If we have an accident we will say simply "sh*t happens in life" and keep on running.


@ Jimbob

Oh please.

If you were moving stuff from the kitchen to backyard, would you close the cabinet door/drawer?

You cannot make anything as complex as a test venue mistake proof. If you knew anything beyond the buzzword, you'd understand that.


If they put 50km worth of fuel in the car, isn't it just easier to remove all trucks, and any other potential obstruction, within a 50km radius of the test session?


If you were playing in your backyard, would you leave a cabinet door or drawer open in your kitchen? No...because it's a potential hazard. Eventually, you'll forget it's there or not see it and run into it.

Pit lanes are designed to minimize the risk while maintaining functionality. Much like the lift gate on a truck is there for the ease of raising it back up again and getting it out of the way.

Mistake proofing, learn it.


why am i not surprised at these findings?


Neither the car, nor she, may have been at fault...

This may have been an entirely avoidable accident.


Exactly! Neither the car nor she may have been at fault had those 2 things never been put together!


Because it's way cheaper to blame the driver than open up an expensive Pandora's Box of investigations, safety protocol revisions etc. But hey, maybe they have data that proves their claims without a doubt. If they don't I smell a lawsuit coming.

William Wilgus

While it may be to a difference in language fluency, to say that the car " . . . exclude the car as a factor . . ." is blatantly false: She was driving it. Only if she had not been doing so could it not have been a "factor". While it might have been 'driver error', it might also have been due to the car operating normally but at an in-appropriate time and place. Someone else has mentioned 'anti-stall' as being the possible culprit. Regardless, it was totally inappropriate to issues any statement until the driver has been interviewed.


Oh boy, this changes everything!!!!!!!!!

As our JAonF1 says, reading between the lines of the investigation report, it appears to lay the blame on driver error and didn't want to bluntly state the fact due to the sensitivity of the situation i.e. Maria hasn't recovered yet.

I feel sorry for Maria for the results of this investigation isn't good for her because this means she can't sue the team for negligence though I suspect the team (out of compassion) will look after her and probably will give her a desk job.

Okay, am not so sure allowing pay drivers (especially ones that weren't too good) into such a dangerous sport is the responsible thing to do.

Maybe this will be a wake up call for the F1 teams.

As always wishing nothing but the best for Maria and a super quick recovery & bright future.


So, if the car's not at fault, then perhaps her training of the cars controls and the teams leaving the tailgate down may be contributing factors.


Implication, driver error, "not our fault". Very cowardly statement given the circumstances. Obvious question, in that case were they negligent putting her in the car.


So what do you want them to say? Nothing at all?

If as they say there wasn't a technical fault with the car that caused the unexpected acceleration then they couldn't really say anything other than what they did unless they wanted to be really brutal and directly lay the blame on the driver.

As to negligence in putting her in the car whilst she was never the fastest she has had enough single seater racing experience for them to be confident in her being competant when it came to controlling a high performance race car.

I would also like to say even if the car wasn't at fault it doesn't automatically mean Maria was at fault she could have had a previously unidentified medical issue which caused her to loose control or something else we don't know about.

Whatever the cause the consequences are terrible for all involved and I wish Maria a speedy recovery.


I agree. She should never have been anywhere near an F1 car with her prior racing history and that is Maurussia's fault not Maria's as she was obviously going to take every opportunity to achieve her dreams. I thought little of Maurussia's decision to hire her and I think a lot less now with this statement.

It would be much better if they release a full statement of what happened and shoulder the blame in the public domain even though if not in private if it comes to a legal affair.

It can't be all Maria's fault and if she was properly briefed on the anti-stall or whatever happened I'm sure she didn't leave the lorry there with the tail gate at head level in front of the car.


She tested for Renault last year. I don't recall hearing about her hitting anything then.


It was a straight line test.

Copious amounts of driver skill are not required.


@ben S

Go look up the definition of copious.

Then read what I actually said instead of what you think I said.


Codswallop. These are highly technical machines that have the ability to accelerate faster than most vehicles on the planet. Any lack of ability and the chance of an accident multiplies. It may be a straight line test, but the blasted thing still has to turn round. It still has to come into the temporary garage. I dare say that 99.9% of us would spin an F1 car at every opportunity.

Whether she was competent enough or not is for others to decide but to say you don't need to be skilled is somewhat blinkered.


Mmmm. A more pertinent explanation required would be why was the truck anywhere near the F1 car when it was running?


Because it was in the paddock area?

I take it you have never been to a paddock at a racing circuit where race cars drive around under their own power, with lots of trucks, mechanics, tents and spectators to negotiate.

She wasn't coming in to practice a pitstop and there was a truck two metres away; there was a truck a fair distance from their paddock area.

I guess you would rather put walls and tire barriers around absolutely everything whenever there is a running car, no matter whether it's a hot pitlane, the paddock area or the grid?


The team must accept responsibility for allowing a tail-lift to be positioned at such a height to inflict such injuries.


If you look at it another way, Paul, it could have been a good thing that the truck was there, otherwise the car might have continued to accelerate and could have hit something else or people or buildings at high speed creating far more caos than it did! We can be thankfull it ran into something solid.



Why? The truck was a good distance from their *paddock* position. Do you really think that it would have been better if she hit the rear bumper of the truck?

It's a paddock area; it'd be ridiculous to claim that positioning a truck there would be dangerous in the least. The car should be, and is expected to be going slow.

You'd be horrified if you ever walked into the paddock of any racing circuit in the world. So many unprotected trucks!


It wasn't just that she hit the truck, it was the tail-lift that, looking at pictures essentially sliced into her helmet. If it wasn't for that she may have just had embarrassment to deal with.


So we can conclude that it was a mistake from De Villota that caused the accident? What did she say about it?


maybe a new rule/check would be to raise the tail gate ! ?



I think the antistall was the cause,perhaps it kicked in when she was driving at very llow speed and that sent her towards the truck. No matter what was the reason of the accident the person who authorized that truck to be parked so close the the track IS responsible for it.


Really? No one could have anticipated this in a straight line test. I'm sure they didn't park the truck in the way of where test was supposed to take place. This was an accident for one reason or another. If I was driving down the road and ran into a telegraph pole, regardless of whether it was my fault or a mechanical fault, who am I to say that it was the council's fault for putting a telegraph pole there in the first place?


The accident occurred after she had completed the straight-line run and had already slowed down and entered the 'pit' area.

It's not like they parked it right along the actual straight itself.

This was a freak accident and most of the time, you can't really prevent freak accidents.


Its an airfield, not a track and I believe the truck is used as part of a make shift "pit area", so it needs to be parked next to the awning.

If it was the anti-stall that would mean a clutch failure of some sort as well, which this report rules out.


I think the possibility of driver error is irrelevant really. The transport truck probably shouldn't have been in the position it was, and I think the FIA need to regulate safety at all tests.


G all f mighty!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm speachless!



How so? Race tracks are designed to eliminate those sorts of hazards. You cannot totally prevent driver error, but you can ensure transport trucks with loading bays down are not in an area of danger for cars with the acceleration of F1.


I would guess that this will come down to an appreciation of how an F1 double clutch and anti stall works, in conjunction with car and speed and engine revs.


Funny, she didn't hit anything when she drove the Renault last year.

Also, anti-stall disengages the clutch, which means the car doesn't go anywhere.



We now await a report on team's efforts in driver preperation and training on car systems, as well as safety procedures around testing area by the team.


She didn't hit anything in the testing area, she hit a truck in their paddock area. Those are two TOTALLY different areas.

I assume you haven't been in a paddock area in a racing circuit, where there are loads of trucks, some with tailgates down, and mechanics and spectators everywhere. You'd be horrified.

You think the Marussia is wildly different than the Renault she tested last year?


No one is misunderstanding the chain of events and point of impact.

What I think is clear to everyone here, and everyone in the F1 community is that this accident was fully preventible. Also, that this is a life changing accident and looking at the circumstances is of importance. And I don't think any of us would be surprised if she didn't see the gate due to thin profile.

I have been to many circuits, and many paddock areas in nearly every class of racing that exists. I have NEVER witnesses an F1 car being powered in direct area of transport trucks. Only exceptions NASCAR perhaps, but we can all agree NASCAR vehicle is safer due to closed cockpit, cages, impact protection. I have seen vehicle engine powered while vehicle is pushed through the crowd at ALMS events, but strictly under neutral gear and with significant safety by crew pushing car and clearing the crowd - the only safety issue was to the crowd if gear was selected and car accelerated. I HAVE NEVER seen an F1 car under power outside of the garage area and track at an F1 event. I would actually be curious if James ever has. I'm not talking about BMW Pit Lane Park or some other city demonstration. I mean at any circuit I have NEVER seen an F1 car under engine power in any proximity to any transport truck.

At tests perhaps safety rules are more relaxed.

Now this was a straight line test at some airfield and perhaps at such events it is normal to have the truck in this position. And we now have a perfect example why it should not be so.


She obviously would've been in an F1 simulator many many times, so would've been thouroughly familiar with all controls.

A mistake was made simple as that, very unfortunate, but she would know it's a risk to even get behind the wheel of an open cockpit racing car. Why is that so difficult for everyone to comprehend?! At least she's still with us with a good chance of recovery!


What Galapago555 said.


When my sister was learning to drive, she drove around the block and made it all the way back to the house. However, as she pulled into the driveway, instead of stepping on the brake pedal, she stepped on the accerlator and ploughed the car into our garage door - much to my father's annoyance (true story).

Furthermore, on a road car however, the RIGHT foot is used for both accerlating and BRAKING. Whereas, on most racing cars, the left foot is used to brake, the RIGHT foot is used for ACCERLATING. She must have gotten confused - moving her right foot to the left to step on an imaginary brake pedal only to partially hit the accerlation. Her feet could have jammed up as she attempted to correct it - but given the speed of an F1 car, there simply was not enough time before she hit the truck.

So I can see where dear Maria might have made her mistake 🙁


I dont think there would be enough room in the tunnel of an f1 car to move your left foot away from the brake pedal let alone get your right foot over there.

Midnight Toper

I recall a simialir incident whereby I was waiting impatiently at the traffic lights to cross a dual carriageway, revs were up, clutch at biting point, handbrake off. My mobile phone rang and instinctively I floored the accelerator (as a racer I am looking for a stimulus, and my brain clearly confused an unexpected audio signal with a visual signal). The traffic light was still on red as I shot across the dual carriageway narrowly missing 4 lanes of traffic along the way by sheer chance.

A close miss, but in the heat of the moment, when we're fired up, adrenalin flowing we do sometimes react in an unexpected manner, even fine athletes like me. It's really part of the fright or flight scenario (pupils dilate, arteries expand, pulse raises etc.) and your explanation about your sister though I suspect may have been tongue in cheek is not entirely unconceivable.


You cant cross your legs in an F1 car!


The point is none of us knows what happened. He might be right, he might be wrong but we all have the same knowledge regarding the incident. about the truck, yes the bed / ramp shouldn't have been at that height in hindsight but it was stationary and typically you don't blame a stationary object for a collision. Something clearly went wrong but your guess is as good as any other at this point.


Please don't pretent you were there, because you were not.


You are way out. She would have spent hours amounting to days in the simulator. She's driven every type of sports car in here career. She's not a novice, she's not learning how to drive. She's not your sister! She's a professional with decades worth of driving experience all over the world in all sorts of cars.

However, whoever you are, it's near impossible to judge your distance to a flat surface at eye height that inexplicably sticks out 5 feet when it should be folded up. I dare say if the lift wasn't there she would have had a minor shunt and that's all that would be said about it.


So, Hare, why would she have accelerated! Do you think she was showing off, or do you think there was another reason!



It's not razor-thin. She would have seen it if she was carelessly planning to drive that close to a truck.

Not a viable theory.


you really think that she made all the way up to f1, not knowing how to brake!!

would marrusia give their car for test ride to your sister? I would rather believe that she was well and truly capable of handling f1 machinery instead.

we should wait till we here from Maria.

hope she recovers soon


This is a) incredibly patronising and b) makes many assumptions. Maria has driven racing cars for a long time, and has driven F1 cars and other single seaters on many occasions. If it was down to her that the car accelerated, it is far more likely it is because she didn't see the ramp was there due to the fact it was at eye level and parallel to her vision.


I doubt the latter part; she would not have driven within a metre of a truck, unless she was being utterly careless.

Haven't you seen the photo of the car under the back of the truck? Certainly not a trajectory that would lend itself to your theory.


That is a very speculative sentiment. There is as yet no reason to speculate such a gross driver error would be the cause of the accident. She could've suffered a forceful yet passing indisposition.


Lets hope its not down to her lack of experience. I remember as a kid driving a motorcycles and ATV for the first time, being nervous/confused and hitting the throttle when trying to stop...doing just this kind of thing... lets hope that isnt the case here. If so Marussia should be absolutely ashamed (and blamed) for the obvious publicity stunt her hiring was in the first place.


A valid point.

And we have to be honest, when this announcement was made we felt it had a purpose of headline grabbing purpose for marketing.

But with such decision by the team surely comes a responsibility. If I hire you to be a Policeman, and put a gun in your hands without providing appopriate training, am I not responsible in part for injuries you may sustain or inflict?


The policeman in question here came and said...I've been a policeman several times before. The policeman was also given simulator training.

Even the driver who had the best preparation in the history of F1 had a crash that wrote the car off in their winter testing (Lewis 2007). Schumacher was crashing cars left right and centre during his 1991/1992 Bennetton days. They're called accidents for a reason...


What I'm having trouble understanding is how was the driver at fault? Unless I am mistaken, it's not like you can leave it in gear and accidentally pop the clutch and the car will take off. The car will just stutter and stall. And I can't think of another way you can keep the car in gear and almost come to a complete stop without stalling it without disengaging the clutch. What am I missing? Someone who knows please explain how that happens.


There was talk about the anti-stall being involved in someway. My understanding of the anti-stall is it disengages the clutch at some low-rev limit, correct?


How exactly does anti-stall work? Must the driver hit N(eutral) button on the wheel to engage it?

And if the driver does not, yet the RPMs drop bellow a level, does it kick in to keep the engine running even if car is in gear? I imagine it does not.

Everytime we see a guy go into a spin, they always seem to throw it in neutral. Then reselect gear when safe and go. I'm just wondering if the system automatically chooses N or if it is up to the driver to do so as this is probably quite important in this case.


That makes sense Malcolm. It pulls in the clutch and keeps the engine going.

I was just wondering if the car could "jerk" forward when the anti stall in engaged automatically. As in, driver drops RPMs too low, anti-stall kicks in but forward movement occurs due to delay between RPMs dropping and clutch disengaging. Or perhaps driver re-engages the clutch after anti-stall. Just wondering how much system intervention occurs and if you can actually stall the car through error in re-engaging the clutch/gear after anti-stall. Have you ever seen car move forward after anti-stall kicks in at a race for example? All speculation, but I'm just curious about possible role of this system. Not sure why the engine would not be switched off on approach and car coasted in as well. Not as if there was a plan of similating a pit stop in this test.


I remember Jeff Gordon (NASCAR racer) tripping the anti-stall about five times before getting Montoya's F1 car going down pitlane at Indy for a media day.

It disengages the clutch to prevent the car from stalling (neutral may not even need to be selected). It doesn't launch the car forward, unless there is some where set of parameters that would prevent the system from disengaging the clutch, yet somehow keeping the car running, but that doesn't really make much sense.


Is this how it works still?

Equally the clutch can be actuate by the anti stall software, this is designed to keep the engine running in a spin, by detecting the wheel speed has dropped to a point where the revs will drop to stall the engine, the system needs to be reset by the driver to re-engage the car in gear.

If so it does throw to neutral and would probably not activate in this case. Which like mentioned above by someone probably just means due to profile of the plate she likely just didn't see it.


It's surprising to read the full report


On the third line, the report states that "María was making her testing debut for the Team and driving an F1 car for the fourth time in her career".

Maybe María was not able to drive this car on this type of test? If that's the Team's conclusion, should they have chosen another driver to perform the tests?

No sign of the truck, not to mention its tailgate being open. I would have expected some comments about the reasons for a truck being parked so close to the track.

The Team are clearly trying to wave any possible responsibility, no matter they insist that "...the priority, which continues to be María’s wellbeing. In that regard, we continue to support María and the De Villota family in any way we can.”.

I hope that a complete and deep investigation is performed and all the measures not to have such an accident again are taken.


The truck was not close to the track/runway. It was close to their paddock area.


Maria has driven a Formula 1 car before, she drove the Renault on a test last year. It was not her first time in an F1 car.


Presumably an exercise in reviewing throttle / brake / clutch / steering inputs vs speed, revs, etc, which could be done within minutes of the crash, but a delay on making this statement due to the sensitive nature of the content?

James, what's the talk in the paddock about possible causes?

Best wishes to Maria, glad to hear about the progress she's making.


I'm sure they just didn't want more negative media coverage at the GP. Telemetry would have shown them everything right after the accident.

Issuing the news release on the Monday afternoon after a non-GP weekend is a pretty good way to avoid wide-spread media coverage.


Not a surprise; the accident was a confluence of decisions and actions that never should have happened. Can we now move on and start discussing the implications?

Two problems: unsafe private testing, and inexperienced drivers. The solution? More heavily regulated testing where the FIA can ensure a safe environment for teams and (young) driver-- where things like loading trucks aren't parked where the cars will be driving.

There is already a young gun test. THAT is the appropriate venue for a young driver without a superlicense (not an airfield at a, underused museum). For all other testing, drivers should be required to have a superlicense. Simple.

Get rid of the private tests and have 3-4 FIA sanctions straight line tests a year, and add one more young gun test.


Clearly you've never been to the paddock of any racing circuit, where drivers as young as 16 years old drive racing cars through to their paddock spot. They have to navigate past trucks, trailers, people and buildings.

Cars are supposed to drive slowly through paddocks. The truck was located in the paddock. Therefore the area was safe for its intended purpose.


Yes, clearly.

"Cars are supposed to drive slowly though paddocks." F1 cars aren't driven through paddocks at all.

At any official track event (test, race, etc.) Formula 1 cars are driven to a circuit, wheeled off the truck, into the garage, and then driven out into the pit lane. Quite frankly, without being on jacks the cars would never be able to maneuver as they have the turning circle of a jumbo jet.

I feel as if I can be excused for feeling that an F1 test should be held to slightly higher safety and operative standards than your local Formula Ford event.


The FIA have ensured a safe enviroment, and the facility is not under used.

'An external forensic investigation was commissioned and carried out at Duxford Airfield (a FIA-approved and much used testing venue, compliant with the recommendations for a test of this nature)' - Taken right from the article, try reading it all next time 😉



But if the FIA are providing RECOMMENDATIONS rather than enforcing REGULATIONS then they have NOT done enough, and haven't "ensured a safe" anything.

That doesn't change my tune though, that an airfield is no place for a young driver. IF the FIA considers it safe (regardless of lorries parked around the place), then the only ppl allowed in the cars are those who are sure to have 100% control of the car.


No fault with the car? This whole tragic thing makes no sense.

If she was deemed to be a race car driver of high enough caliber to be put in a Formula 1 car, How is it possible that she could accidentally accelerate rather than brake? Especially when there is only two pedals; one for each foot.

It seems very odd to me.


Who 'deemed' her to be of a high enough caliber? Only one full season racing, in Superleague, with sporadic appearances in F3000, WTCC etc. since 2005-- no championships, let alone wins, let alone podiums -- Is that all you need now?

Marussia had Robert Wickens in their car at last year's young gun test. The recent World Series 3.5 champ was faster than Pic by a number of tenths, and also went well in the Lotus later that week. Since then, he's been impressing in DTM under the tutelage of Merc's yng driver squad and Schumi, recently scoring his first points.

THAT is the caliber of driver worthy enough of being a 'young gun' F1.

The superlicense system needs revamping. With no official tests in which to accumulate the 300km needed, drivers need to be proven BEFORE they get in the cars.


This was my point. Someone obviously thought that she was at least competent and experienced enough to drive a Formula 1 car even if not competitively. Otherwise she would never have been allowed in the car.

With regards to the super license, drivers do have to get in the car in order to prove themselves. They can't show that they are capable without actually driving the car.

I think teams should be allowed some testing during the season but the testing should have to be carried out by a TEST driver (not a competing driver). This is how rookies can build their 300 km. But this accident occurred at a test and a straight line one at that. So there are no easy answers. Its a freak accident.

Hopefully it is something de Villota can explain at some point in the future.


iceman, that sounds brilliant.


There's a hierarchy of FIA-classified licences below the super licence. I think there's an argument for requiring a class A licence for F1 test drivers - even drivers doing straight line tests or young guns tests. For a class A licence you need to have been a consistent top-5 finisher in a national or international series of some sort.


I agree with elements of what you are both saying. Not 100%, but close enough.

I would suggest that a contemporary neutral/pirelli test car be available in AD for the whole season, excluding the race. It wouldn't cost the teams a jot and the FIA could well afford to run such a scheme. That will give the kids track time.

On the issue of competence, I think she was up to the required standard. I doubt very much that she just picked the wrong pedal. We will see.


Not something I want to comment at the time. I am sure we haven't seen the last of this.


I am not apportioning any blame here - I have no idea of any of the details of this terrible accident. But I was wondering do reserve/test drivers have to meet any minimum tests/standards? Do they need an FIA license/super-license? Or can teams basically pick anyone?

Michael Grievson

It's Definately a shame. Horrible accident.


Not sure Maria needs a finger-pointing at this time. In my opinion, Marussia's statement is not carefully worded enough.


Fingers must be pointed and blame apportioned eventually, without it, the glaring errors that led to this incident won't be considered, let alone addressed.


According to the team the car was ok, but the don´t say a word about not paying for an amulance on the track or for also having trucks there.

This doesn´t mean that the team have no responsability in the accident.


Well, in this case I think it can be stated that a F1 car being driven, slowly, into the pits is more that standard procedure. It seems that accidents caused by high powered race cars are far more common when the vehicle is driven at full-throttle or high performance speeds.

Furthermore, due to the complexity of F1 cars operating systems, along with 700 + horsepower, hair-trigger throttles, and rocket-like acceleration, it goes without saying that, these explosively powered projectiles can "get away from you" very easily if you're a bit short on experience in a F1 cockpit.. All the same, I'd like to see further investigation by a neutral party into this, terribly, tragic accident. All the best, to Maria Di Villota.


I made mention of this in the forum on the chinese driver at the test last week. I think that human error was always the most likely reason for the accident and as I alluded to last week I just hope this curtails the use of people who are put in a car for their PR value rather than their driving abilty.

Having said all of that I hope along with everyone else that Maria makes a solid recovery.


Wow theres alot of talk about the team are at fault for having a truck near a formula one car etc etc... People seem to be forgetting that Professional Racing divers (like Di Villota) are generally used to driving in far more dangerous and marginal situations than this on a regular basis. (take driving into a pit garage loaded with people for example). this is typical of the way the blame culture is going.. somebody must be accountable. Freak accidents can still occur. and sometimes the consequences can be terrible. somebody isn't always to blame. surely lessons can be learned but no one needs to be sent to the firing squad.


not to mention driving around tracks with walls at high speed with a bunch of other cars all fighting for position


yes but if you look at F1 tracks , they dont have any objects sticking out at head height like the trucks lift ! ....

these f1 cars are designed to hit flat walls and crush / crumple etc ... hiting that truck lift did not use any of the crumple zones built into the f1 car.

i am not blaming them for leaving it down , but it could be avoided in future by just raising it !



You're also meant to drive slowly in the paddock. The truck was in the paddock.


The only possible good that can come of this accident is that normal F1 standards of analysis and process improvement are applied, such that sufficient safeguards are put in place so a similar incident can never happen again.

Like everyone else I wish Maria and her family well in her recovery.


While the car itself may not be mechanically at fault, perhaps she received "faulty" instructions from the team over her head set on how to conduct the vehicle that day?


If the accident was caused by the anti-stall system, then there wouldn't necessarily be a fault with the car. The anti-stall system might be dangerous even if it works as intended.


It's not a car fault... now that is a surprise.

In considerate, bottom covering, half hearted statement from the team, no mention of the truck or tail gate.

It might not be a car fault, but it is most certainly a team fault and a pretty big one at that.


Purely subjective, but the impression I get is the first and foremost order of business here is to cover their butt.


If it's not their fault, it's not their fault. They are a business with a public image, and if someone made a mistake, they shouldn't have to take the blame for it.


This is a very strange story. I hope the truth comes out. I wish there were more news on Maria's condition. I wish her well, what a horrible accident.


I've driven an F1 car. It's not easy, anyone who can drive one, in any way quickly is a driving God in my opinion.

With that in mind it would be within the driver's skill to keep control at low speed, but it could be the case that a bump caused her foot to hit the throttle, or a hand slip to dump the clutch.

Drivers are not infallible, even f1 drivers. Having said that, it would seem a little risky to leave the tail lift in the raised position near any moving object. Then again, if it wasn't there she could have been trapped under the back of the truck which may have been worse.


I agree to most comments, saying that the team is to blame. Putting an inexperienced driver at the wheel of an F1 car is asking for danger. And all of this for what? For some publicity. Great, publicity they got, but at which price?

At the same time, I disagree about blaming the FIA or the truck staff that left the platform at that height. Pitlanes on most tracks are probably even more dangerous. If you are not confident with the car, you can drive into the garage, fuel tanks, compressed air equipment and what not. No regulations will ever protect from driver incompetence.

In any case, it's a freak accident. Anti stall or whatever, happened at the worst possible moment with worst possible circumstances. I feel very sorry for everyone involved, especially Maria, who paid the highest price 🙁


It was her fourth time driving an F1 car. She tested for Renault last year.

She had also driven 750 horsepower Superleague Formula cars, previously.

She's no Vettel or Schumacher, but she's not inexperienced.



Do you think we will get a statement from the driver, on her view as to what happen, or is it a forgone conclusion that the Team Statement is right, and will be filed and hopefully all parties will move on?

Small side note was this run, for her “sponsors” or was schedule by the team to check new parts for the car, prior to the British GP? Were any other drivers for the team schedule to run the car that day also?


I've no idea. The whole thing is so unbelievably sad and her injury suffered in rather pointless circumstances. But life (and racing) can be very cruel sometimes


I think its the inference of the report that most people object to. The inference is clear as you commented James, "Although the report does not say it explicitly, the implication is that the accident was down to the driver".

The report merely refers to the lack of technical problems with the car, with no reference to matters pertaining to the whereabouts of the truck or the reason its tailgate was down, or to the medical arrangements and a number of other issues.

It is naive in the least if Marussia think people believe this to be sufficient in what needs to be said and the matter is now concluded.


the same goes for Robert Kubica.

James, wasn't the Health & Safety Executive in UK involved?. Not knowing the procedure in UK, will they prepare and release a report into it?.


I assume that she didn't willingly accelerate into a truck. That if the car accelerated against her will that she attempted to steer away from obstacles. So there were obstacles within line of the pit lane that, if the throttle became stuck open, you could not avoid.

That's clearly a planning mistake.


Incredible how so many people here are so quick to lay blame or point the finger. Marussia have been hammered for days to provide answers and in fairness to them that's all they can really say if there was no mechanical failure in the car- which external parties also concluded separately. Of course this raises more questions that will be need to be addressed by Maria in due course, as well as the whole logistics of the test.

How many times have we seen driver error in these cars or top professional pilots it's not that these things don't happen and it's a tragic outcome anyway you look it. But not once have I heard or seen Marussia shy away from their responsibilities in this incident and I doubt they or any team for that matter will-I'm sure we will get more information and a review in time. I think talk of sueing etc is really silly now without knowing both sides of the story.

I doubt also its the first time a team truck has been off the side of the road during these tests in the pasts and maybe the outcome of this will be to stop this. I know also the FIA had been considering the possibility of small screens & even completely enclosed canopies for F1 cars for a while now maybe this will hasten that decision. Maybe also it's a out time that the seating position is changed to improve visibility as this has been the main contributor to "racing incidents" many times. .


This is indeed a very bad accident but all the team are stating is that in these particular circustance, the car functioned as it was expected to do i.e. no faults with any systems or controls.

For the record, I have a race transporter with a 1500Kg tail lift which is used to unload the car etc and end on is only about two inches (50mm) thick and under certain circmstances could be almost invisible when viewed "head-on", except we have painted ours RED mainly so people don't trip over the ends.

However, as soon as our car is of the lift, it's folded up flat against the back of the transporter.

The type of tail lifts on F1 transporters almost always double up as the door to the rear of the truck and generally are closed once a car is uloaded to allow access to the workshop areas.I cannot think of any reason why anybody would actually leave a tail lift folded down at such a height unless it was actually in use i.e. for inspecting the underside of a vehicle.

It may simply be the case that Maria just didn't see the tail lift when she returned to the truck area.

If she did lose control of the car on approaching the truck, then even if the tail lift was in either fully down or up flat against the vehicle, then she may well have collided with the rear of the truck? Who knows as none of us were present when this accident happened but it may well be just an error of judgement. Remember, an F1 car can change direction and cover a lot of ground in a fraction of a second....this is what they are designed to do...once slight error of judgement can create a catastrophic event.

tom in adelaide

It's sadly ironic that what started out as a publicity stunt ended with more publicity than Marussia could ever have imagined.

People seem to forget that these cars are very difficult to control at low speeds. Power is high, grip low. Reading between the lines, Maria lost control of the car and hit a truck. A lot of people here seem to be incorrectly interpreting that as her driving along under control and whacking into an unsighted and half lowered truck tailgate. That is incorrect.


Interesting that the team issued the statement at all. Why not wait until the HSE had finished its report? It will be interesting if the team get sued or if they just settle and we never hear about it. Still very sad though for all involved. A lesson learned regarding tail-lifts though.


A lot of misinformed comments here. While it is entirely possible that she made a mistake, it is unlikely to be of the 'L' driver variety of pressing the accelerator instead of the brake. Also contrary to some comments, first hand reports suggest she was not 'accelerating' in an attempt to turn the car around. The accident was at a relatively low speed, it seems likley that she was caught out by the car's anti-stall, and in trying to disengage it, basically trundled into the back of the truck. Many have implied that Maria was unqualified to drive an F1 car - this ignores that fact that plenty of others with far less competitive experience have been able to drive F1 cars safely and competitively in the past. Sure, she does not have a glitteringly succesful CV, or loads of experience in F1 cars behind her, but she has raced and driven competitively and much as Marussia may need her money, they will not have just put her in the car without some orientation in its controls and performance.

Remember also that this is the team's own investigation, not an official report. They are hardly likely to say "oops it was our fault" for fear of legal action, but they equally unlikely, out of respect for Maria, to say "it was her fault". The implication is that she made a relatively small mistake. If and when an official investigation is completed, it may or may not highlight the silliness of the truck ramp being down. But these sort of investigations are usually a bit of a waste of time - it was an accident, and sadly a rather silly one that Maria has had to pay dearly for. These things happen sometimes; to start bringing in rules about who can or can't drive an F1 car (in a private test, especially) is unnecessary in my opinion.

Would Kimi Raikkonen have been allowed to test, let alone race a Sauber back in the day, if there were rules about what he had to have done or achieved?


It's my understanding that there was some acceleration from Maria's car as it was nearly at a complete stop, before launching itself, rather quickly, a very short distance, into the back of that parked truck. High and low speed is, absolutely, relative in an F1 car.

So, from that perspective, going by the team's statement, all systems seemed to be normal at the point of Di Villota arriving in front of the pit crew.

At, the same time, it's more then common for a driver to, for instance, blip the throttle before coming to a stop, knowing the car is out of gear. In fact, that's a common thing to do for drivers of road cars, while pulling up and stopping at a red traffic signal before an intersection.

Again, there are so many variables when strapped in the cockpit of an F1 car, and dealing with it's complexities and awesome horsepower. Mistakes and accidents are always a great risk!


Please explain to me "driven competitively" .


I agree she's no Schumacher. I agree that she's there for money reasons. She may have been at fault, but saying she isn't experienced enough is total BS. She's been in enough quick cars to have a decent idea of what to do.

She drove into a truck, so she obviously did something wrong. Whether it was distraction, stupidity, lack of talent, a moment of confusion, or panic, we likely won't know. No matter what the car did, she should have steered around the truck; however, anyone can do that, no matter their level of experience.


Or put the brakes on.



Competitively refers to "in competition", rather than driving on a road, for example. Don't be trite.


If "driven competitively" actually means participating in a competition , i would vote myself as a "competitive driver" as i routinely race go-karts, and Alex Yoong as a "highly competitive driver" who would have eaten Senna and Schumacher for lunch !

Certain apologists here just cannot fathom the fact that the driver can be at fault because of her lack of experience or ineptness. I dont think anyone here hopes anything other than best to Maria, having said that, let me reiterate that she most certainly did not get a test drive for her talent or technical knowhow when you have guys like Alguersuari, Wickens or even Trulli and Heidfeld desperate for half a drive!


Thank you Malcolm. A lot of people seem to think de Villota just passed her test last week; she's not a reincarnation of Senna but I'm sure she's a lot more capable of driving an F1 car than the majority of commentators here. Also while she might not have Alonso-levels of skill, she's more qualified to test a F1 car than some of Ferrari's F1 clienti millionaires or the guys to turn up at racing schools running (old) F1 cars.


Why is it so difficult for many on here to accept that she may have made a mistake.


Sshh! Don't say that unless you want to get labeled as a "Misogynist". Apparently, drivers , especially inexperienced drivers cannot make mistakes anymore, and its always the fault of random objects that they run into.


Dear oh dear...

Fact is you probably are one. Everybody can make mistakes, even the mightiest ones. But the truck had no place there, and even less have its platform down.

Any other consideration is useless, derivative, a product of imagination and prejudice.


Exactly what i'm saying ! She made a mistake and ran into the truck, and fyi..the truck was NOT in her way but parked aside. It is heights of ridiculousness to keep blaming the clutch, the car, the team , the truck, its driver and truck's tailgate for a mistake made by Maria.


Maybe she just mis-handled the controls and was confused long enough to lose control of the car. She could have turned the wheel or hit the brake, instead maybe she was distracted trying to figure out what she had just done, probably looking at the wheel, and didn't see the truck.

Maybe they could have trained her more to habitually hit the Neutral button right under her thumb. But in unfamiliar equipment, when something surprising happens, you can be disoriented for crucial seconds and simply do nothing when you had every means to avoid an accident.

People keep talking about anti-stall as the culprit. Doesn't anti-stall put the car in Neutral? Isn't that why cars bog down at the start when anti-stall kicks in -- rather than leaping forward? The driver has to re-select 1st?


I was under the impression that it was standard practice in the haulage industry NOT to leave tail lifts down unless actually unloading on them at the time. i.e. they get raised well above head height or best folded up flat when not in use. I know this isn't the case in most racing paddocks but even then the carsare not swinging into the awnings or turning around at any speed.


Everywhere I've worked with trucks it was only ever folded up when the truck was in motion or fully parked (not in use at all), and even then most times the lazy drivers either just half-folded the lift but left it up (still like a guillotine to anyone who crashed into the truck), or just left it fully-unfolded as it was in this accident, but fully elevated.

When there was a need to be carrying small stuff into and out of the truck occasionally, it was usually left half-up and used as a step. Or left all the way down and moved every time, but that drains the truck's battery, then you can't start it, or have to leave it running. So there's a preference for leaving it half-way and shutting the truck off when it's "on-site", i.e. storage in active use.

Probably it's supposed to be stowed when not in use, but it's a bit of a pain, you have to drop it 2/3 down, it's heavy to fold up, then wait for the hydraulic motor to stow it fully. Really it would not be practical while on-site somewhere to keep stowing and un-stowing it. But if they'd had it on the ground it would not have been a hazard, the car would have hit the crash structure of the truck instead and there wouldn't be an injury.


It would seem the title for this story is not correct. It is correct there was no failure of the equipment on board the Marussia. Information is coming to light that the root cause may be an operational design failure coupled with insufficient driver training. When departing the runway to the temporary pits area at Duxford Maria had to negotiate a constant radius turn. During this time her steering wheel was turned making it difficult to operate the hand operated clutch. The clutch button on the steering wheel was not operated. It should not be about blame but learning the lessons to minimise the chances of something similar happening.

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