Former Marussia test driver Maria de Villota has been found dead in her hotel room in Seville, Spain.
Maria, who was 33-years-old, is believed to have been in the city to give a talk on the topic of her recent autobiography, titled ‘Life is a Gift’.
A statement released by the de Villotta family on Maria’s Facebook reads: “Dear friends: Maria has left us.
“She had to go to heaven like all angels. We are thankful to God for the extra year and a half that he left her with us.”
Maria, the daughter of former F1 driver Emilio de Villota, lost her right eye in July last year after being involved in a life-threatening testing accident at Duxford Aerodrome.
The Spaniard, who was conducting a straightline test for the Marussia team, suffered severe head injuries after colliding with an articulated trailer, but later recovered from her injuries and made her return to the F1 paddock at this year’s Spanish Grand Prix.
De Villota, who formerly competed in the World Touring Car Championship and Superleague Formula, went on to become a major campaigner for motorsport safety following her recovery.
Friends and former colleagues of de Villotta have flocked to pay tribute to the spirit of Maria since her tragic death was first announced this morning.
Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn, who worked alongside de Villota as a member of the FIA Women in Motorsport commission has shared her thoughts on Maria’s passing, stating: “If anybody represented strength and optimism, it was María.
“Her sudden death is a big loss to the motorsport world as she was an important ambassador for relaying important messages to the youth, and particularly girls that aspire to a career in motorsport.
“María was an example of someone who never gave up, she always had a smile on her face and we will dearly miss her.”
Jean Todt, the President of the FIA, added: ”Today is a tragic day for motorsport”, he said. “My deepest condolences go to the de Villota family.
“María was a fantastic driver, a leading light for women in motor sport and a tireless campaigner for road safety. Above all she was a friend I deeply admired. Through her courage, strength and determination she transformed her personal misfortune on the track into a powerful message for road safety that was heard at race tracks and beyond around the world.
“María was a beloved member of the FIA family. Our thoughts go to her family today.”
The Marussia team, with which de Villota became the first woman to drive a contemporary Formula One since Katherine Legge in 2005, released a short statement which reads: ”It is with great sadness that we learned a short time ago of the news that María de Villota has passed away.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with María’s family and friends at this very difficult time.”
RichlandF1 extends its condolences to the family and friends of Maria de Villota, she will be greatly missed.