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Emotional tributes for tragic de Villota

AFP | Last Updated: Friday, October 11, 2013 - 18:53

Suzuka: Formula One competitors paid emotional tribute on Friday to former reserve driver Maria de Villota, who was found dead in a hotel room a year after a serious accident in testing.

Fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso said he heard immediately after the second free practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix, as the news filtered around a shocked paddock at Suzuka.

De Villota, 33 and daughter of ex-Formula 1 driver Emilio de Villota, lost her right eye and suffered serious head injuries in a crash while testing for Marussia in July 2012.

Her body was found in a hotel room in Seville on Friday morning. Police said there were "no signs of violence" and that they were awaiting an autopsy.

"It`s hard to talk about Maria de Villota right now, as I had only just taken my helmet off when I was told about her death," Alonso, a two-time world champion, told reporters.

"At the moment, I still can`t believe it and need a while to stop and think about it. Of course, it`s very sad news for the world of motorsport as Maria was loved by everyone.

"Now, all we can do is pray for her and for her family."
Marussia also expressed sadness at de Villota`s death and posted a large picture of her on the home page of their website.

"It is with great sadness that we learned a short time ago of the news that Maria de Villota has passed away," a team statement said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Maria`s family and friends at this very difficult time."

Sauber`s Monisha Kaltenborn, the sport`s first female team principal, was shocked by the news about the pioneer, one of the few women to be appointed as a Formula One driver.

De Villota wore an eyepatch after her accident, when she ploughed into a support truck at Duxford Airfield in England and suffered extensive damage to her skull.

Last October, she gave details of the accident and said she had lost her sense of smell and taste, but still wanted to be involved in Formula One.

"She always had a smile on her face. It`s terrible," Kaltenborn said. "I`m so shocked. Especially when you knew her and what kind of a strong and optimistic person she was.

"We all have issues but nothing compared to what she went through. She was so bubbly and full of life, so excited about this test that she was going to do and couldn`t believe this chance, and things went so terribly wrong."

Kaltenborn added: "She gave young girls strength, undergoing what she did and to still come out there and still be so convinced.

"Other people would probably have said they didn`t want anything to do with motor sport and just get out of it but she was still so passionate as she was before the accident.

"And who else could do it in a more credible way than her? She was a lovely person... Hopefully she has made a difference. Now it`s up to us to transfer that message further."

First Published: Friday, October 11, 2013 - 18:53

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