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Maria de Villota: Driver loses right eye after crash

image captionMaria de Villota joined Marussia as a test driver earlier this year

Formula 1 driver Maria de Villota has lost her right eye following a test track crash.

She was hurt when the MR-01 race car she was driving hit a support truck at Duxford airfield in Cambridgeshire on Tuesday.

It was the first time the 32-year-old Spaniard had driven the car for the Oxfordshire-based Marussia team.

Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited the test track on Wednesday.

Marussia said surgeons at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge "embarked on a lengthy procedure to address the serious head and facial injuries sustained by Maria in the accident".

'Great sadness'

It said: "The operation began yesterday afternoon and she was in theatre until this morning.

"Maria remains in a critical but stable condition."

John Booth, team principal of the Marussia F1 Team, said: "Maria emerged from theatre at Addenbrooke's Hospital this morning after a lengthy operation to address the serious head and facial injuries she received in the accident at Duxford Airfield yesterday.

"We are grateful for the medical attention that Maria has been receiving and her family would like to thank the Neurological and Plastics surgical teams.

"However, it is with great sadness that I must report that, due to the injuries she sustained, Maria has lost her right eye.

"Maria's care and the wellbeing of her family remain our priority at this time. Her family are at the hospital and we are doing everything possible to support them."

De Villota sustained her injuries after her car "suddenly accelerated" into the back of the support lorry, according to witnesses.

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire presenter Chris Mann, who saw the accident, said: "The top of her car and her helmet seemed to take the brunt of it.

"She didn't move for about 15 minutes."

'Terrible accident'

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.

Mr Booth said: "With regard to the accident, we have embarked on a very comprehensive analysis of what happened and this work continues for the moment."

Messages of support have come in from the motor racing world, including ones from Ferrari driver and fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.

Formula 1 driver and BBC analyst Jaime Alguersari said in his weekly column : "I was shocked to hear of the accident suffered by Maria de Villota. I know her and her family very well. I still don't know the cause of the accident. There are so many rumours but I want to wait to see what really happened.

"It's terribly sad. Maria is a fantastic person, as are her brothers and her father Emilio, who was one of Spain's first F1 drivers.

"She is a role model, especially for all the females who want to get into F1. So this is a very sad situation.

"Thankfully, she is not in a life-threatening situation so we have to look at the positive side. We will see Maria again."

Lewis Hamilton tweeted: "Just heard about Maria's terrible accident at Duxford. I hope she pulls through. My thoughts and prayers are with her family at this time."

The McLaren driver said later: "I don't understand how it happened or how it was able to happen."

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