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MOTORSPORT: Wolff leads tributes to former test driver De Villota
11:00am Saturday 12th October 2013 in Sport
Susie Wolff, development driver for Grove-based Williams, led the tributes following the death of Maria de Villota yesterday.
The 33-year-old was on tour promoting her autobiography – Life Is A Gift – when she was found dead in her hotel room in Seville.
De Villota was the daughter of former F1 driver Emilio and competed in F3, GTs, touring cars and the Superleague Formula.
After testing with the Enstone-based Lotus Renault team in August 2011 she then signed for Marussia, who are from Banbury, in March 2012.
On July 3 last year, De Villota was involved in a freak accident at Duxford aerodrome that resulted in the loss of her right eye.
Despite spending a month in hospital, De Villota rebuilt her life and became part of the FIA’s Women and Motorsport Commission.
De Villota proved an inspiration for many women drivers including Wolff, who emotionally recalled being motivated by numerous messages of support from the Spaniard ahead of her first significant test with Williams at Silverstone in July.
Wolff said: “We both agreed her accident should never have happened. It was a stupid, freak accident.
“It had no relation to which gender of driver was in the car that day and she very much said to me afterwards ‘it’s up to you to go out there and show them that it (a woman driver in F1) is possible’.
“I can remember her sending me the message before the test which said: ‘You can do it. Just do what you do’.
“She knew that women could compete at that level and that’s why, after her accident and her not being able to do that any more, she just wanted someone to know it was possible.
“Out of the paddock and out of the motorsport bubble, she was a fighter.
“She had such a positive outlook on life.
“She was just an incredible lady, no matter what she did on the race track. She was just an incredible character.”
Lotus’s team principal Eric Boullier said:“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.”
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