SUZUKA, Japan, October 12th, 2013 (F1Plus / AFP) - Formula One drivers will hold a minute's silence before Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix in memory of Spanish former test driver Maria de Villota and the podium will be dedicated in her honour, officials said Saturday.
The 33-year-old was found in a hotel room in the Andalusian city of Seville and had died from natural causes, an autopsy found Friday.
"Her positive attitude, maturity and extreme commitment will never be forgotten and are something we have learned from," the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA), which announced the Japan tribute, said in a statement.
"Maria will be missed and always remembered by all of us."
With the F1 paddock at Suzuka reeling at the news, and the Marussia team - with whom she crashed during her fateful test last year - especially hard hit, her family said that her sudden death was linked to the severe injuries she had suffered in that accident.
"Maria died around six in the morning whilst she was sleeping as a consequence of the neurological injuries she suffered on July 3, 2012, the forensic doctor has informed us," Isabel de Villota, Maria's sister, told
reporters in Spain.
"Maria has gone but she has left us with a very clear message of happiness and hope and that is what we are moving forward with at this time."
Isabel de Villota added that her sister would be buried in a private family ceremony in Madrid.
Drivers in Suzuka, stunned by the news of her death, took the decision to honour De Villota's memory.
The daughter of former Formula 1 driver Emilio De Villota, she was the first Spanish woman to enter the sport when she joined the Marussia team in 2012 as a test driver.
However, just four months later De Villota suffered severe injuries, including the loss of her right eye, in a crash while testing at Duxford Airfield in Cambridgeshire, England.
"It is with great sadness that we learned a short time ago of the news that Maria de Villota has passed away," the Marussia team said in a statement.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Maria's family and friends at this very difficult time."
The news has stunned the world of motorsport with tributes pouring in.
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso said he was in shock after finding out the news ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.
"It's very sad news for the world of motorsport as Maria was loved by everyone," said the Ferrari driver. "Now all we can do is pray for her and for her family."