Former Marussia test driver Maria de Villota dies age 33

6 Comments

Former Marussia test driver Maria de Villota has died at the age of 33, it has been confirmed by her family.

A statement from the de Villota family reads:

“Dear friends: Maria is gone. She had to go to heaven with all of the angels. Give thanks to God for the year and a half we had left together. Signed, the Villota family.”

The Spaniard had been in Seville to launch her new autobiography “Life is a Gift” that talked about her horrific accident in a straight-line test for Marussia that saw her lose her right eye eighteen months ago.

According to a report from Radio Cadena Ser (based in Seville), de Villota was found dead in her hotel room at 7:00am on Friday morning, and despite the best efforts of the emergency services, she could not be resuscitated.

The daughter of former grand prix driver Emilio, de Villota had been one of the most prominent women in Formula One until her accident last season. Having undertaken tests with Lotus at the end of 2011, de Villota joined Marussia and played a support role to full-time drivers Charles Pic and Timo Glock.

However, in July of last year, an accident saw de Villota’s Marussia crash into the back of a team truck, leaving her with severe head injuries that resulted in the loss of her right eye. She still remained involved with Formula One after the accident though, appearing in the paddock at the Spanish Grand Prix earlier this year.

Following the news, teams and drivers took to Twitter to lend their support to de Villota’s family and friends.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”