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F1 paddock pays tribute to de Villota

ESPN Staff
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Maria de Villota was present at the Spanish Grand Prix in May © Sutton Images
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Formula One teams and drivers have been paying tribute to Maria de Villota after she was found dead at the age of 33.

De Villota - who was Marussia's test driver before her racing career was ended by a crash while testing at Duxford - was found in her hotel room in Seville on Friday morning. Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) chairman Martin Whitmarsh described de Villota as "an inspiration" for overcoming such difficulties to continue having an impact in the sport.

"The whole paddock is very shocked by the news that Maria is no longer with us," a FOTA statement read. "She was an inspiration not just to women in this sport, but also to all those who suffered life-threatening injuries. Her story, determination and subsequent inspiration flowed from F1 through sport as a whole, and to see the images of her in Barcelona on the grid earlier this year, surrounded by a throng of jubilant children, told a great story.

"Maria participated in the Manhattan Fans' Forum on behalf of her team, Marussia F1, last year, and made a lasting impression on the fans who attended. She will be sadly missed, and we wish to pass on our sincere condolences to her family."

A number of other messages were posted on Twitter, with the FIA Institute saying: "Our thoughts go out to the family of Maria de Villota. She was a true inspiration in our sport and will be sadly missed"

Monisha Kaltenborn - who worked with de Villota on the FIA's Women in Motorsport Commission - paid tribute to her work in helping women get in to motorsport.

"I was totally shocked," Kaltenborn told Sky Sports. "I just learnt about it shortly after the session and I really couldn't believe it because I knew that she'd been very happy, she'd just got married - we'd even congratulated her from the Women's Commission - I know she was totally in to different projects and was fully committed to making a difference for women and girls in motorsport.

"I think if you needed somebody with credibility, with courage, especially after the accident Maria had she was the best ambassador we had. I think it's now particularly important that we - as the commission, within the FIA and as FIA ambassadors - exactly try to make the most of what she's left behind as a legacy. It's tragic what she went through, it's so admirable how she came back and she was so committed to the cause."

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