One of motorsport’s foremost female competitors, Spain’s Maria de Villota, has been found dead in her hotel room in Seville.
The Spaniard, aged 33, was in Seville to promote her autobiography that is due for release on Monday.
Her cause of death has been confirmed by the Institute for Legal Medicine as ‘natural causes’, suggesting a possible link with the head injuries de Villota survived after a testing accident at Duxford airfield in Cambridgeshire last year.
Tributes to the 33 year-old former driver who lost an eye in the accident in July 2012, when her Marussia car crashed into the tailgate of a truck, have poured in from the F1 paddock currently undertaking Friday practice duties in Suzuka ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.
‘Absolutely stunned and heartbroken to hear Maria de Villota has passed away. My thoughts and prayers go out. We will never ever forget you.’ said Caterham reserve driver Alexander Rossi.
“Today is a very sad day for Spanish sport. We have lost a fighter with a huge smile.” added Fernando Alonso.
“It’s horrendous news. Very tragic, the girl has been through so much, more than most people go through in their lives. It has been tough for her but this is horrific news and a real shock to the whole paddock and the world of motorsport.” were the thoughts of McLaren’s Jenson Button.
On Friday afternoon, a family statement was released confirming de Villota’s death:
‘Dear friends: Maria is gone. She had to go to heaven with all of the angels.’