F1 Marussia driver Maria de Villota in Duxford crash

Maria de Villota Maria de Villota joined Marussia as a test driver earlier this year

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A Formula 1 test driver who suffered life-threatening injuries in a crash during testing in Cambridgeshire has regained consciousness.

Maria de Villota was hurt while driving an MR-01 race car for the first time for the Oxfordshire-based Marussia team at Duxford airfield.

The car hit a Marussia support truck which had been used to transport it to the track.

The Spaniard, 32, is being treated at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

Emergency medical charity Magpas, which helped to treat De Villota at the scene, said she had suffered "facial and head injuries" and was in a stable condition on her arrival at hospital.

The car hit a Marussia support truck which had been used to transport it to the track

Marussia said she later regained consciousness and was being assessed by doctors.

A spokesman for the team said: "Maria is conscious and medical assessments are ongoing."

He added that "she has been receiving the best medical attention possible at the hospital".

BBC Cambridgeshire presenter Chris Mann, who witnessed the crash, said the car was slowing down when it "suddenly accelerated" into the back of the lorry.

"The top of her car and her helmet seemed to take the brunt of it," he added.

"She didn't move for about 15 minutes.

"It was an absolutely awful moment. I was surrounded by people that knew her very well, including family, friends, engineers, and her manager."

He said De Villota had been driving at up to 200mph during the testing but the car was travelling considerably slower at the time of the crash.

First run

A Cambridgeshire police spokesman said they were notified by the ambulance service "of a slow-speed crash involving a racing car and a lorry".

Analysis

Formula 1 cars are extremely challenging machines and can require significant skills and experience even to control in a straight line, but Maria de Villota is exactly the kind of competent racing driver typically asked to conduct this sort of test.

Extremely unlikely ever to qualify as a fully-fledged Grand Prix driver, she has raced solidly since 2001 in various lower categories and last summer completed a test for the Renault F1 team at a race track in France.

Crashes are not unknown at straight-line tests, but the circumstances surrounding this one sound especially unusual and it would be unwise to speculate what caused it before a full investigation is undertaken.

He added: "It looks like the driver has suffered a serious injury and we will be notifying the Health and Safety Executive as it happened on private land."

East of England Ambulance Service spokesman Gary Sanderson said: "A woman has sustained life-threatening injuries and following treatment at the scene by paramedics, she has been taken to Addenbrooke's Hospital for further care."

The crash happened at the start of two days of Formula 1 testing at the site.

Minutes before, Marussia driver Timo Glock said on Twitter: "Great to see @mariavillota in the car with the new update. Make it quick."

In a statement, Marussia said: "At approximately 09.15hrs BST, 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."

Former F1 champions are among the hundreds of people to have wished De Villota well on Twitter.

Ferrari driver and fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who won the F1 drivers championship in 2005 and 2006, said: "I just got home and found out Maria's accident, we called the family and hopefully we will know more soon! All my energy with you!"

Jenson Button, who won the championship in 2009, said: "Terrible accident for Maria de Villota, Marussia F1 team test driver.

BBC presenter Chris Mann said everyone was "very shocked" in the aftermath of the crash

"My thoughts are with Maria and her family at this very difficult time."

Marussia entered the sport under the name Virgin in 2010, backed by businessman Richard Branson.

Russian car company Marussia acquired a controlling stake in the team toward the end of 2011.

Maria de Villota

  • Born in Madrid on 13 January 1980
  • A former World Touring Car Championship and Superleague Formula driver, she is the daughter of ex-Formula 1 racer Emilio de Villota
  • Her first taste of F1 came at Paul Ricard in 2011, when she tested a Renault R29
  • Since 2001, she has competed in various Spanish motor races
  • In 2010 she finished fourth at the Nurburgring in Superleague Formula
  • She holds a degree in sports science from the European University of Madrid

In 2012, the team rebranded as Marussia, and drafted in Charles Pic to race alongside Glock.

The team has not scored any points so far this season.

Earlier, Marussia said on Twitter: "@mariavillota had her final seat-fitting & pedal test at our Banbury HQ & then headed north to the Imperial War Museum, ready to do battle."

On Friday, it tweeted that De Villota "had been waiting patiently all year" for the Duxford test day.

When she was unveiled as a test driver for Marussia in March, she said: "This is a fantastic opportunity to work closely with a Formula 1 team and gain important experience to help me progress my career, including the chance to drive the new car later in the year at the Abu Dhabi test."

She added that the move "can only help my future ambition to step up to F1 racing".

On Monday she wrote on Twitter: "In Banbury, getting ready for tomorrow test. Can't wait."

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