For the first time since losing her right eye and almost her life in a testing accident last summer, Spanish driver Maria de Villota visited the Formula One paddock at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.
De Villota was anxious to make her return, telling the Associated Press that she couldn’t sleep the night before because she wondered how it would make her feel. Upon going through the paddock, she got to speak with fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Sergio Perez, but she encountered multiple emotions as well.
“It’s a mix of adrenaline and also a little bit of sadness,” she told the AP’s Jerome Pugmire at the Circuit de Catalunya. “It’s a great weekend but on the other hand it’s also not easy. But I think I’m going to enjoy [the race] on Sunday.”
On July 3, 2012, De Villota suffered extensive head and facial injuries after crashing a Marussia machine into a support truck during straight-line testing at Duxford Aerodrome in England. She underwent multiple surgeries and doctors continue to keep tabs on her progress.
However, even though her F1 career was cut short, De Villota continues to look toward the bright side.
“When you realize you have a second chance in life, you don’t have any other way to live it than with a big smile in your face,” said De Villota, who still considers motorsports as her “escape.”
According to the AP, De Villota is currently focusing on raising funds for the Ana Carolina Diez Mahou Foundation, which serves children stricken with mitochondrial and neuromuscular diseases.
Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.
Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.
“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”
Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”