- Maria de Villota, 33, a former Formula 1 reserve driver and one of the few women to come close to competing at the top of the sport, was found dead on Friday in a hotel room in Seville, Spain.
- The death appeared to be from natural causes, according to media reports.
- De Villota was injured in a crash last year testing for the Marussia F1 team in England, losing her right eye.
SEVILLE, Spain — Maria de Villota, 33, a former Formula 1 reserve driver and one of the few women to come close to competing at the top of the sport, was found dead on Friday in a hotel room in Seville, Spain.
The death appeared to be from natural causes, according to media reports.
De Villota, a native of Madrid, was in Seville to take part in a conference titled "What Really Matters" and to present a copy of her autobiography, Life is a Gift.
She suffered severe head injuries last summer during a test for the Marussia F1 team at an airfield in Cambridgeshire, England, when her racecar crashed into a truck in the paddock.
She underwent lengthy surgical procedures but surgeons could not save her eye.
After recovering from her injuries, the female racing pioneer spoke about how the accident changed her perspective.
"Before, I only saw F1," she told the BBC. "I saw myself in a car competing. I did not see what was important in life, the clarity to say, 'I am alive.'"
Her injury, she said, "has given me my bearings, given me back what's important."
Monisha Kaltenborn, herself a pioneer for women in her role of Sauber team principal, worked with de Villota with the Women in Motorsport Commission. She told BBC Radio: "I had so much respect for the courage she had and how she fought against all the odds and I'll always remember her having a smile, no matter what happened."
De Villota's fellow Spaniard, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, said: "Today is a very sad day for Spanish sport. We have lost a fighter with a huge smile."
Another F1 champion, McLaren driver Jenson Button, called reports of her death "horrendous news," and added: "The girl has been through so much, more than most people go through in their lives. It has been tough for her but this is horrific news and a real shock to the whole paddock and the world of motorsport."
Edmunds says: The irony of off-track deaths always have a profound effect on the racing community, but there will be questions whether de Villota's death was in any way a result of residual effects of her injuries last summer.