Sadly, racing driver Maria de Villota died today at the age of 33.
She was the daughter of former F1 driver Emilio de Villota and she competed in numerous racing series, including the World Touring Car Championship and ADAC Procar Series. In August 2009, she signed with Atlético Madrid to race in the Superleague Formula open wheel racing series. She remained with the Atlético Madrid team until the series folded in 2011. She also competed in the 2005 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race.
In 2012 she was involved in a testing accident whilst carrying out testing for the Marussia F1 team. Her car collided with a stationary truck at the end of a test run. It took an hour for her to be removed from the car and she was taken to hospital with life-threatening head and facial injuries.
She took months to recover and at the time of her death was still requiring further surgery. She had lost her right eye and suffered massive skull damage. Nevertheless she threw herself back into the sport and worked for improved safety and to introduce young girls to the thrill of racing. She said she was determined to stay involved with Formula One in some form and being a role model for aspiring young female drivers was extremely important to her. In July she married her personal trainer.
On the morning of 11 October 2013, exactly one year from her first public appearance after her testing accident, she was found dead in her Seville hotel room. An autopsy confirmed she died of natural causes after suffering a cardiac arrest, with all indications that the underlying cause may have been due to a 'detachment of brain mass' as a result of her 2012 accident.
Monisha Kaltenborn, the team principal of the Sauber Formula One team, summed up her personality as someone who was always smiling and happy and who even used her face patch as a fashion accessory. She was due to launch her autobiography ‘Life Is a Gift’ on 14 October. So ironic.