BARCELONA, SPAIN (AP) - Maria de Villota heard the roaring engines again.
She was in a Formula One paddock for the first time since her accident last July when she was an F1 test driver for Marussiain. She lost her right eye and nearly died.
Now, the 33-year-old Spaniard was back at the track after a sleepless night from nerves and anticipation.
“I’ve been racing my whole life. This has been my world and I have a big stop in my life for 10 months,” De Villota told The Associated Press at the Spanish Grand Prix. “Now I’m here again. So I needed to check myself, my feelings, how I was going to react.”
Walking through the gates was difficult, the sounds and smells triggering memories.
“It’s a mix of adrenaline and also a little bit of sadness,” she said. “It’s a great weekend but on the other hand it’s also not easy. But I think I’m going to enjoy (the race) on Sunday.”
After her accident, she underwent operations for severe head and facial injuries in England before being transferred to Madrid’s La Paz University Hospital. Doctors there had no need to perform brain surgery but she continues to be monitored by brain and eye specialists.
She was driving an F1 car for only the fourth time _ and first for Marussia _ when she hit a support truck during an exercise near an airfield in England on July 3. An internal team investigation concluded the car was not at fault.
Nearly a year later, it still feels raw.
“What should I tell you? I have dedicated my whole life to being a Formula One driver. That part of my life … so many efforts, so many years,” De Villota says, pausing to reflect on how her racing career was cut short in its prime.
“It’s still a tough thing to think (about). But I’m alive, that’s the other thing,” she says, her mood brightening. “Doctors came and just said: `This is like a miracle, Maria, we cannot believe you’re alive.’ I have been right into the line (close to death). When you realize you have a second chance in life, you don’t have any other way to live it than with a big smile in your face.”
De Villota is a daughter of a former F1 driver, British GP winner Emilio de Villota. She first drove an F1 car in 2011, a Renault R29 at the Paul Ricard circuit in Marseille, France.
She is close friends with Susie Wolff, an F1 development driver for Williams.
Although she can’t race again, De Villota would like to be involved in motor sports in some capacity.
“Yeah, of course. It’s still my escape,” she said. “I hear for the first time in 10 months the noise of the engine and then my whole body reacts. For sure I would like to be involved.”