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Maria de Villota has been named as test driver for the Marussia Formula One team, becoming the only woman in such a role at any of the current teams.

The daughter of former F1 driver Emilio De Villota, who started two races in 1977 without scoring a point, she has raced in various series and tried out a Renault F1 car at Le Castellet in the south of France in August 2011.

Russian-licensed Marussia's new MR01 car has run only for limited-mileage promotional purposes before next week's Australian season-opener due to problems in passing the mandatory crash tests.

The team said De Villota would have a chance to drive it later in the year. The next scheduled test will be at Mugello in Italy during the August break but she expected to wait until Abu Dhabi at the tail-end of the season.

FANTASTIC OPPORTUNITY

De Villota said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to work closely with a Formula One team and gain important experience to help me progress in my career.

“I will be joining the team trackside so I'm looking forward to working alongside them at the first race next weekend and this can only help my future ambition to step up to Formula One,” she added.

Marussia's regular drivers are experienced German Timo Glock and French rookie Charles Pic, who needs as much mileage as he can get.

ONLY FIVE WOMEN HAVE DRIVEN IN F1

Formula One has had women drivers in the past, although none has scored a point since the championship started in 1950.

The most successful were Italian Lella Lombardi, who finished sixth in the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix but was awarded only half a point because the race was halted after only 29 laps due to an accident that killed five spectators, and South African Desiré Wilson, who became the only woman to win an F1 race of any kind when she won a round of the the short-lived British Aurora F1 series at Brands Hatch in 1980. - Reuters