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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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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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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. .


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.



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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Michael Grievson

It’s Definately a shame. Horrible accident.

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