The daughter of former F1 driver Emilio De Villota, Maria had embarked upon a promising racing career in her own right. She had competed in a variety of European formula feeder series from Spanish F3 to Superleague Formula as well as some tin-top racing in the World Touring Car Championship, Italian Superstars and Grand-Am. But her goal was to make it into F1.
In 2011 she tested for the Lotus-Renault team and then signed on as official test driver for the Marussia team. While performing those duties at the Duxford Aerodrome last year, she collided with a truck and sustained severe neurological damage. Those injuries sidelined her racing career and shifted her focus to charitable pursuits. She was reportedly in Seville to launch her autobiography when those injuries finally caught up with her to take her life.
Her fellow F1 drivers pledged to take a moment of silence in her memory at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, and the family – to whom we extend our deepest sympathies – was reportedly planning a private funeral. Whether they find cause take any manner of recourse against the Marussia team, however, remains to be seen.