Maria de Villota, Marussia´s test driver, has been involved in a serious accident on Tuesday morning, while participating in a two-days test at the Duxford Airfield.
The 32-year old Spaniard, daughter of former F1 driver Emilio de Villota, started her first test on Tuesday morning, when she got behind the wheel of the MR-01, to test some new parts ahead of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend. However, shortly after she went to the track to do a formation lap, she returned to the pits. Initial reports were sparse but some indicated that de Villota had either lost control and hit the loading ramp of a team truck going into the pit area or that she had slipped the clutch.
Eye-witnesses confirm that the accident occurred after de Villota had pulled up in front of the mechanics. the car was stationary at the time, but as the team approached the car, to wheel it back into the garage, it suddenly accelerated forwards and crashed heavily into a stationary parked vehicle. As a result, the front of the car was destroyed and Maria´s helmet was seen to take the majority of the impact with the side of the truck.
Emergency services was informed and rushed to the scene, and in the meantime de Villota received assistance by the officials at the track. She was motionless for about 15 minutes as paramedics attended to her but she was seen moving her hands before being transported to Addenbrooke Hospital, some 8 miles north of the airfield.
The East of England ambulance service spokesman, Gary Sanderson, said in a separate statement that the driver had “sustained life-threatening injuries”.
Marussia issued a short statement on the accident:
“At approximately 09.15 BST this morning, the Marussia F1 team’s test driver Maria De Villota had an accident in the team’s MR-01 race car at Duxford Airfield, where she was testing the car for the first time.
“The accident happened at the end of her first installation run and involved an impact with the team’s support truck. Maria has been transferred to hospital. Once her medical condition has been assessed a further statement will be issued.”
racecar-engineering.com had this possible explanation, to what could have happened:
“This sounds very much like the cars anti stall system engaged at the end of the run. Inexperienced drivers having their first runs in a F1 car can be caught out by this. As they slow to stop the car or make a low speed turn (for example into a garage) they lift off the throttle and let the revs drop. The ECU senses this and sets throttle to around 50% with the car still in first gear resulting in a sudden acceleration such as the one described.”
BBC Cambridge presenter Chris Mann, was on the scene, at the time of the accident:
“She got into the car, fired it up and did a test run at probably about 200mph in the rain. The car was slightly misfiring but there didn’t seem to be any concerns.
“She came back into the area we were in with the engineers. She slowed down but then suddenly, inexplicably accelerated through the crowd and smashed into the side of the truck. The top of her car and her helmet seemed to take the brunt of it. She didn’t move for about 15 minutes. Fire crews were there within seconds and the ambulance within minutes.
“After a while we thought we saw some movement of her hands but she appeared to be unconscious or unable to move for quite some time.”
The car of Maria de Villota after the crash
A close up reveals just how the accident happened. The loading ramp of the truck seems to have been positioned at the same height as Maria´s visor on the helmet
A member of the internet community Reddit.com, Cloughie was present at the time of the accident and has provided valuable updates all through the day. He is also responsible for this little graphic explanation: