The motorsport community worldwide has reacted with great sadness to the news of the unexpected passing of former F1 test driver María de Villota, with many drivers and senior figures paying tribute to her on social media.
The Marussia F1 Team led the charge, placing stickers of her star on the win mirrors of Jules Bianchi and Tom Chilton’s cars (pictured right).
The Formula 1 fraternity is still to decide how, or if, they will formally recognise her passing at this weekend’s Grand Prix at Suzuka. An announcement is expected in due course.
In the meantime, here is a selection of the tributes from around the world…
“It is with great sadness that we learned a short time ago of the news that María de Villota has passed away. Our thoughts and prayers are with Maria’s family and friends at this very difficult time.” – Marussia F1 Team statement
“Today is a tragic day for motor sport. My deepest condolences go to the de Villota family. María was a fantastic driver, a leading light for women in motor sport and a tireless campaigner for road safety.
“Above all she was a friend I deeply admired. Through her courage, strength and determination she transformed her personal misfortune on the track into a powerful message for road safety that was heard at race tracks and beyond around the world. María was a beloved member of the FIA family. Our thoughts go to her family today. – Jean Todt, FIA President
“We are shocked to hear the news of María de Villota’s death and would like to offer our sincerest condolences and heartfelt sympathy to her family and friends for this tragic loss.
“If anybody represented strength and optimism, it was María. Her sudden death is a big loss to the motorsport world as she was an important ambassador for relaying important messages to the youth, and particularly girls that aspire to a career in motorsport.
“María was an example of someone who never gave up, she always had a smile on her face and we will dearly miss her. – Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber F1 Team Principal
“The whole paddock is very shocked by the news that María is no longer with us. 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.
María 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.” – Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren Team Principal
“It’s hard to talk about María de Villota right now, as I had only just taken my helmet off, when I was told about her death and at the moment, I still can’t believe it and need a while to stop and think about it.
Of course, it’s very sad news for the world of motorsport as María was loved by everyone. Now, all we can do is pray for her and for her family. – Fernando Alonso
“Today’s news about María de Villota is horrendous and tragic. She had been through so much – much more than most people will ever have to go through in their lives – and it’s been so tough for her. This is a real shock to the whole Formula One ‘family’ and the world of motorsport. My thoughts are with her family at this time.” – Jenson Button
“Such a sad day losing María de Villota. She was a wonderful girl who had time for everyone and energy for everything. An inspirational lady.” – Lee McKenzie, BBC F1 presenter
“So sad to hear María de Villota, [an] active member of our FIA Drivers’ Commission, has left us. RIP Maria. My thoughts and prayer for her and her family.” – Emanuele Pirro, former F1 driver and FIA Drivers’ Commission member
“Just stunned here in Suzuka by the terrible reports that María de Villota has died. My thoughts go out to her family and all at Marussia.” – David Croft, SKY F1 commentator
“Bitter sweet day. Watching drivers challenge Suzuka to varying degrees of success,total pleasure. Hearing about María De Villota totally sad.” – Martin Brundle, SKY F1 commentator
“Just heard the sad news about María de Villota, I lost a friend, a real fighter and a classy woman. My prayers for her [and] family. RIP Maria.” – Enrique Bernoldi, former F1 driver
“Sad news today here. We’ve lost someone that was a real fighter, someone that I really admired, María rest in peace we love you.” – Jaime Alguersuari, Pirelli F1 test driver
“Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of María de Villota following the tragic news of her passing today. Her courage, determination and hope were an example and inspiration to many. She will be sadly missed by our sport.” – Mercedes team statement
“Have been thinking of María de Villota, her accident, her near miraculous recovery. Her will to live was inspirational. Life is too fragile.” – Steve Matchett, Formula 1 commentator
“Very sad to hear about María de Villota, remember when she used to show me the way around Jarama… All my condolences to her family… RIP.” – Nicolas Prost, Lotus F1 test driver
“Wherever María is, I am sure she will be smiling at us. Always a reference for all of us. A complete Super Woman. RIP.” – Pedro de la Rosa, former F1 driver
“All my thoughts to the family of María de Villota, never forget their enthusiasm and desire to excel.” – Marc Gené, former F1 driver