Spanish Formula One driver Maria De Villota suffered serious injuries on Tuesday after a crash in testing for the Marussia team, it was confirmed.
De Villota was rushed to hospital after an early morning crash at Duxford Airfield circuit in Cambridgeshire, with ambulance officials initially describing her injuries as “life-threatening.”
Marussia said in an updated statement that the 32-year-old test driver from Madrid was conscious as she underwent treatment for head and face injuries at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
“Since Maria’s arrival at the hospital at approximately 10.45hrs this morning, she has been receiving the best medical attention possible at the hospital, which is the region’s major trauma centre,” Marussia said.
“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.”
Marussia earlier said De Villota had been injured after her car collided with a support vehicle at the end of her first lap.
BBC radio presenter Chris Mann, who witnessed the crash, said De Villota’s car had ploughed into the truck after suddenly accelerating.
“She got into the car, fired it up and did a test run at probably about 200mph in the rain,” Mann said.
“The car was slightly misfiring but there didn’t seem to be any concerns.
“She came back into the area we were in with the engineers. She slowed down but then suddenly, inexplicably accelerated through the crowd and smashed into the side of the truck.
“The top of her car and her helmet seemed to take the brunt of it.
“She didn’t move for about 15 minutes.
“Fire crews were there within seconds and the ambulance within minutes.
“After a while we thought we saw some movement of her hands but she appeared to be unconscious or unable to move for quite some time.”
De Villota, the daughter of former Spanish Formula One driver Emilio De Villota, was given a test drive by Renault last year and has previously raced in Spanish Formula Three and the Daytona 24 Hours.
The world of Formula One reacted in shock to news of De Villota’s crash on Tuesday.
“Terrible accident For Maria de Villota, Marussia F1 team test driver. My thoughts are with Maria and her family at this very difficult time,” British driver Jenson Button wrote on Twitter.
Villota’s compatriot 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!”
Women drivers remain a rarity in Formula One. In April this year Williams signed German touring car driver Susie Wolff as the team’s development driver.
Wolff was among those to express her concern about De Villota’s welfare.
“Sick in the stomach after hearing about Maria crashing in the Marussia F1 this morning. Please please please let her be ok,” Wolff wrote on Twitter.
The last woman to enter the F1 world championship was Italian Giovanna Amati, who failed to qualify for three races at the start of the 1992 season with Brabham.
Five women have entered F1 races in the past, the most prolific being Italian Lella Lombardi, who started 12 grands prix in the 1970s.
Marussia began racing in 2010 under the Virgin banner. The team rebranded as Marussia in 2012, with Charles Pic driving alongside Timo Glock. The team has struggled to make any impression on the championship however, failing to score any points this season.