A FORMULA One test driver was in hospital last night after suffering life-threatening injuries when her car collided with a lorry during testing at an airfield.
Maria De Villota, 32, regained consciousness before being transported from Duxford Airfield to the major trauma centre at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, at about 9:15am yesterday.
The Marussia driver was taking part in her first test drive for the Formula 1 team at the Second World War site when the accident happened.
She had completed her opening lap and was conducting a straight-line aerodynamic test.
De Villota, the daughter of former F1 driver Emilio, was approaching a makeshift pit area when the car suddenly propelled her forward and crashed into the truck at around 20mph to 30mph.
It is understood the tailgate had been lowered at the time and she suffered head and facial injuries.
BBC 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.”
She regained consciousness and was talking before being transferred to Addenbrooke’s.
East of England Ambulance Service spokesman Gary Sanderson said she had “sustained life-threatening injuries”.
Air ambulance charity Magpas, which also attended, said: “Our team were called to Duxford Airfield and arrived at 10:20 this morning after a Formula One car collided at slow speed with a lorry tail lift.
“The ‘helimedix’ assessed the patient, who suffered facial and head injuries, and administered pain relief as they worked alongside an ambulance crew.”
Following the accident, a number of F1 drivers tweeted their condolences.
McLaren’s Jenson Button wrote: “Terrible accident for Maria De Villota, Marussia F1 team test driver. My thoughts are with Maria and her family at this very difficult time.”
De Villota’s Spanish compatriot and Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso added: “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!”
Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo tweeted: “Let’s put Maria De Villota in our hearts today.”
The Marussia team said they were waiting on tests being carried out at the hospital.
In a statement, they said: “The team can confirm Maria was transferred by ambulance from Duxford Airfield, where the accident happened, to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
“Since Maria’s arrival at the hospital at approximately 10:45 this morning, she has been receiving the best medical attention possible at the hospital, which is the region’s major trauma centre.
“Maria is conscious and medical assessments are ongoing. The team will await the outcome of these assessments before providing further comment.
“The team’s first priority at this time is Maria and her family.”