SPANISH Formula One test driver Maria de Villota, one of the few women to come near to competing at the top of the sport, has been found dead in a hotel in the southern Spanish city of Seville.
De Villota, 33, lost her right eye and fractured her skull in a horrific accident at a straight-line test at Duxford airfield in England in July 2012. She recovered from life-threatening injuries but no longer competed.
"We are assuming it was a natural death, but we cannot confirm anything," a police spokeswoman said, adding that forensic scientists and police from the homicide unit were to examine the scene.
De Villota was appointed test driver for Anglo-Russian Formula One team Marussia last year, before her crash. However she never took part in a general test with other drivers.
Only a handful of women have driven Formula One cars in the last decade and none has come near to racing one in competition.