Former Marussia test driver Maria de Villota has been found dead in Spain

Tragic news from Seville stuns Suzuka paddock as F1 pays its respects

By Sky Sports Online.   Last Updated: 11/10/13 2:03pm

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Former Marussia test driver Maria de Villota has been found dead in her hotel room in Seville, her family have confirmed.

Initial reports state that emergency services were called to the 33-year-old's hotel room at 7am on Friday morning but were unable to revive her.

Investigations are continuing into the cause of death, but a police spokesperson has told The Daily Mail: "We are assuming it was a natural death, but we cannot confirm anything."

It's understood that Maria, who was married two months ago, was in the city to give a lecture ahead of the upcoming publication of her autobiography, entitled 'Life is a gift'.

A statement released by de Villota's family on Maria's facebook page read:

'Dear friends: Maria is gone. She had to go to heaven like all the angels. Give thanks to God for the year and a half more that we had left together. Signed. Family Villota'.

The daughter of former F1 driver Emilio de Villota, the Spaniard was appointed Marussia's reserve and test driver in 2012, but was involved in a horrific accident during straight-line testing at the Duxford Aerodrome last July in which she lost the use of her right eye.

"It's an almighty shock," reflected Sky F1's Johnny Herbert as the news broke in the Suzuka paddock ahead of this weekend's Japanese GP. "She was part of the F1 family. She will be a big, big loss."

Ferrari reserve driver Pedro de la Rosa, a compatriot of de Villota, added: "She was a fantastic woman. She was always happy, and she had just got married and was a happy woman again. She was always positive and we will always miss her."

In a statement released through the sport's governing body, FIA President Jean Todt said: "Today is a tragic day for motor sport. 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. 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."

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