Last updated 11:00PM AEST
Marussia test driver María de Villota has been rushed to hospital barely minutes into her first-ever outing in the team’s MR-01 car in what has been described as a freak accident during the team’s scheduled straight-line test session at Duxford airfield.
The Spanish driver – who is the first female racer to drive a Formula 1 car since Katherine Legge in 2005 – is understood to have hit the loading board of the team’s transport truck that it had brought to the circuit.
“At approximately 09.15 BST this morning, 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,” a statement just released from the team reads.
“The accident happened at the end of her first installation run and involved an impact with the team’s support truck.
“Maria has been transferred to hospital. Once her medical condition has been assessed a further statement will be issued.”
Eyewitness account claim that the accident took place after her first lap of the day, once she had pulled up in front of her mechanics.
As the mechanics approached to wheel her back for service, it suddenly accelerated forward and crashed into the stationary truck parked nearby.
It is understood that the front of the MR-01 was destroyed in the impact and De Villota’s helmet was seen to hit the side of the truck’s loading deck.
She was reportedly motionless for at least fifteen minutes while paramedics worked to stabilise and extract her from the car into a waiting ambulance, although she was also reportedly seen moving her hands once extracted.
A statement from the local Cambridge Police adds: “We were called by the ambulance service at 0925am with reports that a racing car had been in collision with a lorry at low speed at Duxford Airfield. We have since discovered that the driver has a serious injury.”
A follow-up statement released by the East of England Ambulance Service has been received, with spokesman Gary Sanderson saying: “[She] has sustained life threatening injuries and following treatment at the scene by paramedics, she has been taken to Addenbrookes Hospital for further care.”
The test session was being covered a local TV crew from the BBC’s Cambridgeshire branch. Its presenter Chris Mann is quoted as saying: “From where I was standing it looked like the helmet took the brunt of the impact.
“Strangely, the car suddenly accelerated into the lorry and the car went careering into the side of the loading board.
“There was a terrible moment when everyone was just very shocked by the impact and the suddenness of what had happened.”
The BBC and SKY F1 – who had both sent TV crews to cover the test session – were asked to leave the venue within twenty minutes of the accident, and while medical officials were working on the injured driver.
De Villota was set to take part in two days of straight-line testing for the team as part of its assessment of a host of aerodynamic parts ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix.
This was to be her second outing in F1 machinery, following her maiden test outing with the Lotus Renault GP team last year at Paul Ricard.
We will keep you posted of the latest developments as they come to hand. The team will issue a further statement once more details of her condition are known.