Female F1 test driver loses eye

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IOL mot pic jul5 Maria de Villota

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Maria De Villota was appointed test driver of Marussia in March.

Marussia's Spanish test driver Maria De Villota has lost her right eye and remains critically ill in hospital after surgery for facial and head injuries.

De Villota was involved in an accident while driving the car for the first time on Tuesday in a straight-line test at Duxford airfield in the east of England ahead of this weekend's British Grand Prix.

After completing one run and returning to the mechanics, her car suddenly accelerated into the back of a team truck with the 32-year-old's helmet taking much of the impact.

Team principal John Booth said: “It is with great sadness that I must report that, due to the injuries she sustained, Maria has lost her right eye.”

Booth said surgeons at Cambridge's Addenbrooke's hospital had embarked on a lengthy operation that began on Tuesday afternoon and kept the driver in theatre until Wednesday morning.

“Maria remains in a critical but stable condition.”

De Villota's family were with her at the hospital. The driver is the daughter of former F1 racer Emilio De Villota.

She was appointed test driver of Marussia in March, making her the only woman in such a role at the time although Williams have since handed a similar development role to Suzie Wolff.

The Spaniard has raced in various series and tested a Renault Formula One car in August 2011.

Marussia's race regulars are German driver Timo Glock, who missed the previous Grand Prix in Valencia through illness, and Frenchman Charles Pic.

The British-based team, who were formerly known as Virgin Racing and have not scored a point since their F1 debut in 2010, have no reserve driver and De Villota lacks the necessary super-licence for the role.

Booth said the team had embarked on “a very comprehensive analysis of what happened and this work continues for the moment”.

He added that British-based Marussia had been overwhelmed by messages of support for De Villota, her family and the team. - Reuters

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