De Villota: “I won this race because I am still alive”

Former Formula 1 test pilot talks publicly for first time about accident in which she lost an eye

Spanish Formula 1 test driver María de Villota on Wednesday has made her first public declaration since suffering a horrific crash at Duxford Airfield in Cambridge during a straight-line testing session last July: “I won this race, because I am still alive.”

The 32-year-old, who was hired by the Marussia F1 team on the back of her driving career in Formula 3 and the Euroseries 3000, lost an eye in the accident, which occurred when the car she was testing inexplicably accelerated while in the pits, where it crashed into the tailgate of a team truck at helmet level.

In an interview with ¡Hola! magazine, De Villota said her recovery was ongoing — she requires a further two operations — and that her outlook on life has changed: “Before my life was a total race against the clock, a fight against the stopwatch. Now I have to stop and measure things in a different way. Now it is not about seconds on the clock but the little moments,” she said.

The seriousness of the crash was immediately apparent to those who witnessed it, and led to East of England ambulance service spokesman Gary Sanderson to say the driver had “sustained life-threatening injuries.” However, De Villota made a miraculous recovery, although she admitted to being “terrified” when she first saw herself in the mirror after the accident.

“I had 104 stitches in my face, black, that looked as though they had been sewn with nautical rope, and I had lost my right eye.”

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