MADRID, Oct 11 (Reuters) - A smilingly upbeat Maria De Villota said she believed the best was still to come as she spoke in public for the first time on Thursday about the horrific training accident that led to her losing her right eye.
Dressed in a blue velvet jacket and dark jeans and with a blue eye-patch covering the eye socket, the Spanish Marussia Formula One test driver recounted how she had woken after surgery in July to have the news broken to her.
“The surgeon came up to me with my family around him and said: ‘Maria we have saved your life, I don’t know if you remember you had a serious accident but we have to tell you that you have lost your eye’,” the 32-year-old told a packed news conference in Madrid.
“I asked him: ‘Are you a surgeon? Do you need both hands to operate? I am a Formula One driver and I need both eyes to drive,” she added.
“Later it seemed like a miracle and you notice that in some ways you can see more than before.”
With her blonde hair cropped close to the skull that had been fractured in several places, De Villota thanked all those who had helped and supported her and said she now believed she had “a new opportunity to live at 100 percent”.
The accident happened when she was driving the Marussia car for the first time in a straight-line test at Duxford airfield in the east of England.
After completing one run and returning to the mechanics, the car suddenly accelerated into the back of a team truck with her helmet taking much of the impact.
She was taken to Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s hospital and underwent a lengthy operation that began on a Tuesday afternoon and kept her in theatre until the following morning.
De Villota said she still had several operations ahead to help correct the facial injuries and skull fractures but was determined to stay involved with Formula One in some form.
Being a role model for aspiring young female drivers was extremely important to her, she added.
“I have motor sport in my DNA and there’s no way I can stay away from that world,” she said.
”I want to keep fighting because I believe so strongly in women being part of motor racing.
“The crucial thing was to get back some optimism about the future, that’s what helped me to get my interior motor running again. I am sure that the best is still to come.”
Carlos Gracia, the president of the Spanish automobile federation (RFEdeA), said neither he or De Villota were able to discuss the details of the accident as an investigation was still going on.
“Today is a day of absolute celebration, for me it’s a party after all that has happened to Maria,” he said.
“Maria is an example of strength from which many of us should learn.”
De Villota, the daughter of former F1 racer Emilio De Villota, was appointed test driver of Marussia in March, making her the only woman in such a role at the time.
The Spaniard has raced in various series and tried out a Renault Formula One car in August last year. (Editing by John Mehaffey)