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Maria de Villota, Former Female F-1 Test Driver, Dies at 33

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Racing Test Driver Maria de Villota
Racing test driver Maria de Villota is seen on the grid before the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya on May 12, 2013 in Montmelo. Photographer: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Racing test driver Maria de Villota, who lost her right eye in a crash during practice with the Marussia Formula One team last year, has died, Spanish motor racing federation official Juan Zamorano said. She was 33.

De Villota’s body was found at about 7 a.m. local time at a hotel in Seville, where she was scheduled to participate in a conference today, Zamorano said by phone.

Investigators reported De Villota’s death appeared to be because of “natural causes,” a police spokesman said by phone from Seville. The results of an autopsy weren’t immediately made public. A local government official said autopsy results aren’t normally released.

The daughter of racing driver Emilio de Villota, her attempt to become the first woman to race in Formula One since 1992 ended when she lost her eye while trying out a Marussia racing car at an airfield near Cambridge, England, in July 2012.

De Villota had competed in series including the World Touring Car Championship since 2001, according to her website. In 2004, she drove a Ferrari Modena sports car at the 24 Hours of Daytona.

She had completed 300 kilometers (186 miles) of testing for the Lotus Renault Formula One team in 2011 before being hired as Marussia’s test driver.

De Villota made her first of several public appearances after the crash in October 2012, when she said she planned to become a racing-driver instructor in Madrid. She also issued a computer graphic which showed the injuries she suffered to her head and face.

Head Injury

“The first time that I looked in the mirror I had 104 black stitches in my face that looked like they had been stitched with maritime rope and I had lost my right eye -- it left me terrified,” De Villota told Spain’s Hola magazine.

In the interview, last October, she also said she suffered from headaches which doctors “don’t know how long will last -- maybe years.”

“I have to control my efforts a lot because of the cranial pressure,” she added. “I have also lost smell, and taste, which is linked to smell.”

After recently marrying, she was scheduled to present her autobiography, titled ‘Life is a Gift,’ next week, Miguel Cardenal, Spain’s secretary of state for sport, said in a televised interview.

The last woman to drive at a Grand Prix weekend was Italy’s Giovanna Amati, who failed to qualify for three races for the Brabham team in 1992.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Duff in Madrid at aduff4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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