2012's big stories: De Villota crash


Formula 1's most serious crash of 2012 was so nearly the championship's first fatality in 18 years.

In the apparently innocuous situation of a straightline aero test for Marussia at Duxford airfield, reserve driver Maria de Villota made contact with the lowered rear of a truck, sustaining life-threatening injuries and ultimately losing her right eye.

Incredibly, she not only survived but was able to tell the story herself just three months later.

The crash

De Villota's deal with Marussia slipped largely under the radar at the start of the season, as with her limited junior record it was not seen as a precursor to a larger role or race seat.

But when the team needed to evaluate a major mid-season upgrade in a straightline test prior to the British Grand Prix, de Villota was called up for the aero test.

It was just after her first shakedown run that the accident occurred. As eyewitness reports and pictures began to leak out, the gravity of the situation and the freak nature of the crash became clear.

Confirmation of "life-threatening" injuries and images of the impact between de Villota's helmet visor and the truck's tail section left F1 fearing the worst.

Thankfully, de Villota pulled through, but the following day it was announced that she had lost an eye.

The aftermath

The Grand Prix Drivers' Association was keen for lessons to be learned from the bizarre incident, which Marussia concluded was not caused by a car failure.

The fact that the accident involved a female driver inevitably made it even bigger news, given Formula 1's continued male dominance.

De Villota had been one of two female racers on F1's periphery this season, with Susie Wolff also in a test role at Williams.

AUTOSPORT columnist Tony Dodgins sought out Wolff's view on the tricky subject of whether de Villota's injury was a blow to greater female participation in motorsport.

F1 'must analyse' de Villota's crash

Tony Dodgins: Do women have a chance in F1?

Wolff remembers de Villota in first test

The recovery

In early October, de Villota was well enough to give interviews to Spanish magazines and to meet the media - including AUTOSPORT.

She revealed that she could recall the entire accident, and that an eventual return to motorsport was still in her mind.

Those present also saw hospital images that brought the severity of de Villota's injuries into perspective. That she was still around to discuss those injuries with the press was a huge tribute to the medical teams present at the accident and for its aftermath.

Recovery landmarks:

12 July: Marussia says recovery 'remarkable'

21 July: De Villota returns to Spain

26 July: De Villota leaves hospital

11 October: De Villota meets the press in Madrid

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