Shocked Alonso and F1 pay tribute to De Villota

Fri Oct 11, 2013 5:30pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Ferrari's Fernando Alonso spoke of his shock and sadness on Friday as Formula One paid tribute to former Marussia test driver Maria de Villota after her sudden death in Spain.

"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," the Spaniard said after practice for the Japanese Grand Prix.

"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."

De Villota, 33, was found dead in a hotel in the southern Spanish city of Seville, where she had been due to present a book about her experiences and recovery from a near-fatal accident in July last year.

Police said she had likely died from natural causes.

The Spaniard lost an eye and fractured her skull when her car drove into a parked truck at the end of a straight-line aerodynamic test run at Duxford airfield, with the driver's helmet taking much of the impact.

With her age and lack of experience counting against her, De Villota had never come close to a race drive but her tenacity and courage after the accident made her an inspiration for other aspiring women drivers in the male-dominated world of motorsport.


A policeman blocks cameramen as the body of Maria de Villota, former Marussia Formula One test driver, is taken away after she was found dead in a hotel in Seville October 11, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer