Open Battle
Baku 2018
Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Maria De Villota: “I see life differently now”
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Apr 2013   |  1:49 pm GMT  |  51 comments

Former Marussia F1 aero test driver Maria de Villota has been speaking this weekend of her new life, following her life threatening accident at Duxford almost a year ago.

De Villota was doing straight line aero tests on the runway at the former WWII airbase when she crashed into the open tailgate of a truck which was parked near the team’s temporary pit awning.

Formula 1 held its breath as she underwent a series of vital operations at Adenbrokes Hospital in nearby Cambridge. She suffered a severe head injury, lost her right eye and required 104 stitches in her face.

She was speaking this weekend at a conference in Madrid and gave a fascinating interview to La Gazzetta dello Sport in which she spoke about “life reinvented” and says she feels okay,

“Within the limits of what’s possible, the damage to my head conditions my day; I’m better in mornings than afternoons, I lost feeling in the right side of my head, I have headaches, that’s the worst bit and I’ve lost my sense of smell.

As for living with only one eye, and of the prospect of driving again she said, “I’m starting to learn perspective better, but I’m getting better at calculating distances. I don’t have reference points, for example for braking or with another car in front. It will get better, but I don’t know how much.”

De Villota says that she remembers every moment of the incident at Duxford, “But I cannot speak about it because it is the subject of an investigation. I believe in justice and I prefer to act cautiously, that the investigators will do their work and establish what happened that day.”

As for how the accident has changed her outlook on life she says, “I have a totally different view on life, the scale of values changes from what I was used to; problems are all relative, I see life with great optimism.

“Initially I was angry with the doctor because he had failed to save my eye, but then little by little I became aware that losing an eye was a lot less important with respect to what I still had; life itself. I felt I’d been part of a miracle. I look now at my scars as part of my story, I carry them with pride.”

As for the future she is throwing herself into various projects including a road safety campaign with the FIA and some F1 broadcasting work with Spanish TV rights holder Antenne 3.

* A programme on Women in Motorsport, hosted by BBC Radio 5 Live F1 presenter Jennie Gow will air on that station on Tuesday 30th April at 9.30pm. The programme is not rights restricted so can be listened to anywhere in the world via Tune In app or online. This is the talked-about show which features some rather 20th century views from Sir Stirling Moss as well as input from Williams’ development driver Susie Wolff, Claire Williams, Bernie Ecclestone and others.

Featured News
Editor's Picks
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

Maria’s accident did not happen at an F1 circuit but rather at an Airforce base airstrip in Duxford. She was doing top speed straight line acceleration tests. No lunatic “had left the truck in such a potentially dangerous place” (Jonathan – above), it was the carrier truck that brought her Marussia car to the Airforce base airstrip, which was parked on the side, off the tarmac, at the airstrip. My heart goes out to Maria. Thank God she is a strong woman. God almighty will NEVER saddle you with any grief that you cannot handle. Investigations are in progress, and for now the car is cleared of any faults which could have resulted in the crash.


Good to see she hasnt lost her sense of humor.

” I see life differently now”. Hope you can get back in the seat and enjoy what you love doing.


I am following this story once more having almost forgotten about it. Maria crashed having ‘suddenly accelerated’ to 30/40mph. The car has since been cleared of any malfunction, and so it remains a mystery why the car accelerated, and why she was unable to avoid the trailer. By stating that she remembers everything she is referencing the ongoing investigation and letting us know that she has a clear version of events, which she has presumably told the HSE.I look forward to their findings, because as it stands I cannot see a fault with anyone, or anything other than the driver.


I read a coroners report about a case in Australia where a driver was parking his car a few floors up in a multi storey car park. After initially parking, he thought the nose was too far out into the aisle so he decided to get back in and reverse a little further. The car was prevented from moving further back by a wheel stop until more power was applied and the wheel stop partially gave way. The car suddenly hopped over it, crashed through the barrier on the edge of the building and unfortunately the man died when the car flipped and landed on its roof below. It turns out that the barrier was not designed to stop vehicle impacts because it was interpreted that where wheel stops had been installed it was not required.

To my amazement the investigation found that the driver was in no way at fault. Everything else was at fault


I’m afraid after looking at the time of the accident into her career record, I also have that nagging feeling that this may be down to a lack of experience on her part.

If this does turn out to be the case there really needs to be some lessons learned.

People who make the decision to employ drivers based on positive discrimination, marketing reasons or any other reason other than merit, in my eyes are culpable if this sort of accident then occurs.

I believe that women are just as capable as men of racing formula 1 cars, and when one comes along who is quick enough, she will break into the upper echelons of the sport.

Until then, it only demeans women racing drivers by promoting those without the necessary abilities.


I forgot to add Nepotism to my list of non-merit based reasons. (as if that will ever leave Motor Racing !!)


Well I hope the investigation is serious because this is a bizarre accident to have considering it was a straight line test, also it begs the question was she experienced enough to drive an F1 car??


“… it begs the question was she experienced enough to drive an F1 car??”

Of course not, but don’t point that out here – it’s politically incorrect to do so.


“I’m better in mornings than afternoons, I lost feeling in the right side of my head, I have headaches, that’s the worst bit and I’ve lost my sense of smell.”

I can relate to the headaches bit. 12 years after my own serious car accident, still suffering headaches is crippling. Good luck to Maria – I hope it gets better quicker for her.

Oh No You Didunt

Good to see her perspective on life has changed, [mod]


I am very pleased to hear Maria has such a positive approach and outlook on life. I hope she can have some role in F1.


“I believe in justice and I prefer to act cautiously”. Perhaps it’s just the translation, but that sounds like she feels the accident was not her fault.


Very sorry for her. Glad she seems to be very positive.

Wasn’t it the anti-stall that kicked in and propelled the car towards the truck?


“I believe in justice and I prefer to act cautiously”. Perhaps it’s just the translation, but that sounds like she feels the accident was not her fault. —- funny how two people can read the exact same thing and come to different conclusions, b/c I see that as her acknowledging that speaking out on the issue will only increase her liability. If the other party were negligent, she would have nothing to fear in pointing that out. As it is, her silence is deafening and speaks volumes about the shame she must feel for having hurt her then-team’s interests.


Thanks for the article, James. My mother lost an eye in a botched operation, and my wife lost her sense of smell (and very nearly an eye) in a cycling accident. They are genuine disabilities, but life does go on. Maria appears to be heading int he right direction.

tom in adelaide

I hope this doesn’t end in a lawsuit with damages being awarded.


I think Moss’s views were more 19th century than 20th century! The 20th century was the century of feminism.


Maybe not late 20th century, but certainly mid-20th century, the time of Moss’s heyday.


I had no idea the investigation was ongoing.

It reminds me of something I thought at the time. Basically, I found it very interesting that after the accident Marussia stated to the press that “obviously, the first priority is to clear the car.” As though the car couldn’t possibly be at fault, even though it had yet to be investigated. I forget who it was, but it was in the team principle briefing ahead of the following race.

I thought that the turn of phrase was telling. Or am I reading too much into it? I wonder.


I’d think of it more in terms of it being one of the few things they could really do. They might not have good footage of the incident to look at, they couldn’t exactly get Maria’s point of view at the time (nor would it have been their place do to so), etc. But they had the telemetry, hard data of exactly what was happening with every aspect of the car at the time, and the car is basically their area of expertise.


A great outlook on life after life altering events. Best wishes for a speedy recovery and successful future.

John in San Diego

Great to see that Maria is continuing to recover well, and that she has such a positive outlook on life considering what happened to her. Best wishes Maria!


Congrats for bringing María’s story, James. Her attitude after such a terrible experience is so encouraging.

Hope this kind of accident never happens again.


Fuerza Maria! you are the bravest driver


fantastic attitude.

so happy she realises that one dosen’t worry about what could have been, but instead revel in what is to come.

p.s. what a brilliant smile!

call anytime!


well good on her, I wish her well for the future, after such an appalling accident.

Tristan Bayless

Hmm, so she intends to file suit…


@ number 9 Tristan Bayless :

1)she lost one eye

2)lost the feeling from the right side of her head

3)gets head aches (brought about from the crash not just having a stressful day!!)

4)lost the sense of smell

she did not

1) trip over a loose bit of paving and try and sue everyone in a 10 mile radius

2) falsely put in a claim from whiplash when she bumped her car at the local supermarket

3) falsely claim incapacity benefits whilst at the same time sunning herself in Barbados

4) swindle the tax payers by claiming for a second home

Just because it’s a dangerous sport does not mean everyone involved in it should be subject to danger with little or no regard to safety.


The preliminary investigation by Marussia indicated it was a driver error. Even with the tailgate closed, she could’ve hurt herself pretty bad. It was lack of experience and some terrible luck. I wish the young lady a speedy recovery, and i hope she returns to competitive sports someday.


Thank you Zombie…at the time of me posting I wasn’t aware of the findings from the initial investigation…much like the OP hence my reply.

Hindsight and all that…

still here’s wishing her well and, fingers crossed, seeing her back in the sport in what ever degree.


Great spirit… If we could bottle that, the world would be a super place.


Can’t believe there is still a open investigation. She is speaking like there is a case ?



Considering that de Villota ‘remembers every moment of the incident’ and that all the telemetry data is most likely available, why is the Health and Safety Executive taking so long in its investigation?

Surely it would be to the benefit of all parties concerned (and F1) to clear the matter up expeditiously?


Certainly puts a different perspective on F1 stewards’ decisions being delayed for hours after a race doesn’t it.


Well I understand that UK health and safety is much worse then our OSHA here in the states. Who knows how long it will take.


Good to see her so positive and being involved in the FIA road safety work. These investigations always seem to take an eternity & it would seem that she may be seeking closure with whatever the evidence brings by now.

James do you know if she is still in regular contact with Marussia ?It must be quite tricky because both parties must be silenced pending the outcome of the investigation.


With all its safety F1 still has some blank areas…

The head is among them (or, perhaps, the only one?): if this part is in danger then the stakes are very high.

The great news is that Maria went through this.


So true.

I was looking at a tech document for the 2014 car the other day and wondered why there is still no protective canopy. That would certainly have saved Maria from her horrible injuries. Hers was not the first such accident and might not be the last, indeed just last year, Alonso had a close shave with Grosjeans car flying his head.

The canopy mighty be ugly, but its necessary. At the very least, we should have roll bars.

I wish Maria de Villota the best.


Quade, you are right accidents do happen – that is why risk should be reduced wherever possible. I made no comment about the truck having been parked dangerously – the lunacy was leaving the tailgate at the same height as a drivers head.

Again you are right in that we have no eyewitness reports of any attempt at a doughnut. That is the point – the only report we have had these many months later was that the car suddenly accelerated in a confined space and hit the dangerously placed tailgate. It is incredible that we have heard nothing else – it has all been kept very quiet. If there had been a fault with the car I am sure we would have heard about it. Therefore speculation is all we have left… and, as I said, I cannot help but wonder. A failed attempt at a doughnut fits the situation a bit too easily to be ignored.

I once had an employee cut a finger off on a saw. The insurance assessor declared it was not an accident as nothing had failed – he cut his finger off by carelessness – however unintentional. Human nature is what causes so many catastrophes. No matter how safe we try to make things people still get injured.

Arguably F1 is too safe already – there is so little consequence running off track drivers do it all the time. Gravel traps meant drivers stayed on track as straying onto one meant almost certain retirement – and gave just as uncertain results as Pirelli tyres…


I don’t know where you get the idea that there have been other accidents such as Maria’s. Hers was the only car running and was not on an F1 circuit. I have certainly never heard of an F1 car hitting a lorry tailgate that some lunatic had left in such a potentially dangerous position. I doubt a canopy would have made much difference – and F1 cars have had roll bars for a great many years now.

This freak accident occurred at a far from normal venue where a still relatively new team was testing with a driver with very limited experience of such a powerful machine. There were definitely silly errors by the team (the tail lift) and… I cannot help but wonder if Maria was attempting a couple of “doughnuts” in the restricted space the team was using as a temporary pits.

On a more positive note it is good to see Maria smile. She has obviously made a huge mental recovery as well as physical.


Yes, your comment is spot on, this terrible accident was far from F1 standars.

And I also can’t help but think that she is more culprit than the team 🙁


I meant to say forward roll-hoops, rather than roll bars.

Accidents are always caused by mistakes, faults or an act of God.

There is not a single eyewitness report that even remotely suggests that Maria was doing doughnuts, was being silly or that a lunatic had packed left the truck in a dangerous place.

Finger pointing based on guesswork is not constructive.

What happened was an accident, so lets deal with it in that context.

It was an accident in which a test drivers head had an impact of enough force to cause horrendous injury. What we should be asking ourselves is if the force of impact could have been reduced or deflected, resulting in significantly less injury and avoiding tragedy. Obviously, any protection around the head would have helped. Either a forward roll-hoop or canopy which have been extensively tested by the FIA would have saved Maria from some or all of the injuries she is now carrying for life.

The loudest arguments against forward roll-hoops and canopies is that they are ugly. That argument pales into insignificance when weighed against cost in life and limb.


for me it wouldn’t be F1 if it had a canopy, why not enclose the wheels to stop possible flips. Why not have drone drivers to stop possible injuries? They know the risks of an open wheel car, just get on with it.

Top Tags
JA ON F1 In association with...
Multi award winning Formula One photographer
Multi award winning Formula One photographer

Sign up to receive the latest F1 News & Updates direct to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!