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11 October 2013, 09:09
Former Formula One test driver Maria de Villota, who lost an eye following an accident at Duxford Airfield last year, has died at the age of 33.
Spaniard De Villota was the daughter of former F1 driver Emilio, and competed in F3, GTs, touring cars and the Superleague Formula before joining up with Marussia.
On July 3 last year, whilst testing for Marussia, De Villota was involved in a freak accident at Duxford Aerodrome that resulted in her losing her right eye.
Despite spending a month in hospital, De Villota rebuilt her life and became part of the FIA's Women In Motorsport commission.
It is understood De Villota was on a tour promoting her autobiography at the time of her death, with reports in Spain stating she was found in a hotel room in Seville.
A statement on De Villota's Facebook page, signed by her family, read: "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.''
In a statement, the Imperial War Museum at Duxford said: "We are truly saddened to hear about the death of Maria de Villota.
Our sincere condolences go to her family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time."
A spokeswoman for Madrid police said: "We are assuming it was a natural death, but we cannot confirm anything.''
FIA president Jean Todt, meanwhile, has also paid a glowing tribute to De Villota.
Todt said: "Today is a tragic day for motor sport.
My deepest condolences go to the De Villota family.
Maria 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.
Maria was a beloved member of the FIA family. Our thoughts go to her family today.''