Marussia F1 test pilot Maria de Villota was found dead in a hotel room a short time ago. De Villota was involved in a heavy crash last year during which she lost her eye, but nevertheless recovered well.
Spanish television Antena 3, who said de Villota has suffered from migraines since recovering from the near-fatal 2012 crash, revealed there will be an autopsy to determine the actual cause of death. It is confirmed that there were no drugs found in the room, nor were there any signs of violence.
The Marussia F1 Team released the following statement in response to the very sad news of the death of Maria de Villota.
“It is with great sadness that we learned a short time ago of the news that Maria de Villota has passed away. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Maria’s family and friends at this very difficult time.”
The family have also confirmed the news, stating: "Dear freinds, Maria has left us. She had to go to heaven, just like all angles. We are grateful to God for the extra year and half that she was to be with us.
Many more people in the F1 world offered their condolences after the news broke.
"It's hard to talk about Maria de Villota right now," said Villota's countryman Fernando Alonso, "as I had only just taken my helmet off, when I was told about her death and 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."
"Today's news is horrendous and tragic," said Jenson Button. "She had been through so much - much more than most people will ever have to go through in their lives - and it's been so tough for her. This is a real shock to the whole Formula 1 'family' and the world of motorsport. My thoughts are with her family at this time."
"The entire F1 community is very shocked by the news that Maria is no longer with us," said Martin Whitmarsh. "She was an inspiration not just to women in this sport, but also to all those who suffered life-threatening injuries. Her story, determination and subsequent inspiration flowed from F1 through sport as a whole, and to see the images of her in Barcelona on the grid earlier this year, surrounded by a throng of jubilant children, told a great story.
"Maria participated in the Manhattan Fans' Forum on behalf of her team, Marussia F1, last year, and made a lasting impression on the fans who attended. She will be sadly missed, and we wish to pass on our sincere condolences to her family."
"We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Maria earlier today," added Eric Boullier. "On behalf of the team here in Japan and back at Enstone, I would like to express our condolences to the friends, family and colleagues of Maria. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time."
"If anybody represented strength and optimism, it was Maria," said Monisha Kaltenborn. "Her sudden death is a big loss to the motorsport world as she was an important ambassador for relaying important messages to the youth, and particularly girls that aspire to a career in motorsport. Maria was an example of someone who never gave up, she always had a smile on her face and we will dearly miss her."
"Today is a tragic day for motor sport," said FIA president, Jean Todt. "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,” he added. "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."
De Villota was in Sevilla to give a lecture ahead of the launch of her autobiography, 'La vida es un regalo' (Life is a gift), and according to reports had appeared in perfect health on Monday.
Maria was the daughter of former F1 driver Emilio de Villota and died at the age of 33.
We wish her friends and family all strength to get through this difficult period.