Ex-F1 test driver Maria de Villota dies at 33

Madrid, Oct 11 (IANS) The first Spanish woman to drive a Formula One car, Maria de Villota, was found dead in her hotel room in the city of Seville Friday.

Although tests have still to be carried out as to the cause of her death, the police believe De Villota died by natural causes given there were no signs of violence nor of any medicines found in the room.

She had been due to speak at a congress "What truly matters," which aimed at inspiring teenagers.

The 33-year-old had been a test driver for the Marussia F1 team, before a collision in July 2012 with a lorry at Duxford aerodrome in the UK saw her lose her right eye following a long operation.

The daughter of former F1 driver Emilio De Villota, Maria had spent most of her career behind the wheel of a racing car and she had competed in Spanish F3 and in the Daytona 24 hours race in the United States.

Following the loss of her eye, she had been forced to give up racing, but was building a career in the media, in charity work and was on the verge of publishing her autobiography.

Villota's former team, the UK-based Marussia outfit released a statement lamenting her death

"It is with great sadness that we learned a short time ago of the news that Maria has passed away, and our thoughts and prayers are with Maria's family and friends at this very difficult time," it said.

Maria's family also lamented her death, but gave "thanks for the year and a half she was able to live following her accident".

The entire F1 fraternity expressed grief and shock at her demise.

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