London – It should have been a heady, happy time for Formula One test driver Maria de Villota on Tuesday, when she was testing the Marussia team's racing car for the first time.
But the 32-year-old Spaniard's car collided with a team vehicle during the session in Cambridgeshire, north of London, causing serious injuries to de Villota's head and face and leading to the loss of her right eye.
De Villota remains hospitalized in Britain, with teammates describing her condition as critical but stable.
She underwent a lengthy procedure by neurological and plastic surgery teams, her team said, adding that de Villota was in the operating room from Tuesday afternoon until Wednesday morning.
"We are grateful for the medical attention that Maria has been receiving," John Booth, Marussia team principal. "However, it is with great sadness that I must report that, due to the injuries she sustained, Maria has lost her right eye."
De Villota is the sport's first full-time female driver since Italy's Giovanna Amati raced with the Brabham team in 1992.
She was taken to Addenbrooke's Hospital after the accident with what an emergency team's spokesman described as life-threatening injuries.
Her head apparently took much of the impact from the collision with the Marussia team truck, which was used to transport the racing car to the airfield for a week of testing ahead of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone Sunday.
It was still unclear why the car suddenly accelerated, and hit the truck as De Villota slowed down at the end of the run.
Booth said the investigation of the accident is ongoing.
"We have embarked on a very comprehensive analysis of what happened," Booth said.
Marussia F1, formerly known as Virgin Racing, is yet to score a point in this season's Formula One championship.