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Maria de Villota has a dream.



31 MAR - 03 APR 2016

Standing at the back of the Marussia F1 team's garage, dressed in racing overalls and hooked into their communications system, she is trying to make that dream reality.

The noise is deafening. The engines rev, but her ears are protected by the 'bins' that feed her all the information passing between drivers and engineers.

For this serious, hazel-eyed 32-year-old Spaniard, there is no satisfaction in landing a role as test driver and possible reserve for German Timo Glock or Frenchman Charles Pic, himself a rookie.

For her, it is merely an opportunity to emulate her father and prove she can, one day, sit behind the wheel of an F1 car on a Grand Prix grid.
"This is my passion, since I was so young and I am focussed," she explained. "It doesn't matter that I am a woman. I have always had to race against men. Always..."

This is a woman who believes she has a chance to shape her own destiny - and one who cares nothing for suggestions that she may be a role model for her sex.

"My father did not want me to race, no - he wanted me to be an Olympics athlete - but I was so much pushing and pushing to be here... It wasn't easy, but here I am now," she said.

"It is not easy for people to understand. I have to make them believe I have talent. To push and push and, you know, sometimes to be rude. Strong. Now I have a chance and I have to take it."

De Villota's father, Emilio de Villota, raced in the British Aurora F1 series in the late 1970's and early 1980's. In 1980, the year his daughter was born in Madrid, he enjoyed his best season: 13 races, six poles, five wins and nine podiums overall.

He took his daughter to see him race. Soon enough, she was hooked.

She has climbed the greasy pole from karting to top-level single seater racing.

Critics say her family eased the path and that she has reached F1 thanks to sponsorship, not talent.

She says she has done it by working hard. "I'm not married and I don't have a steady boyfriend," she said. "That's my choice. I have time for that later. This is my time for this - to race."

The Marussia team boss John Booth said: "She had a test in France last August and we know what she can do. We are integrating Maria into the F1 environment so she can learn, gain experience and do some testing later in the year."

That will come at the rookies' end of season Abu Dhabi test.

"It has taken me a long time to get here," said De Villota. "I have made more progress in the last years, because I had experience. Sometimes it is better to be older to be a driver.

"And I don't care what people say. I am so focussed. I want to learn, to race, to be on the grid...."

She knows it is a tall order.

If De Villota makes it, she will become the sixth woman to take part in a world championship event - only one of whom, Italian Lella Lombardi, delivered any points.

Half of a point, in fact. She managed that in a crash-curtailed Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona in her second race, in 1975. Fluky? Maybe... but it stands in the record books.

The last woman to drive in an F1 Grand Prix weekend was Italian Giovanna Amati, with Brabham, in early 1982. She survived three GP weekends, but failed to qualify for a race.

Her successor was a determined Englishman called Damon Hill, another child of a racing father.

He also struggled to qualify with the Brabham, but finally succeeded. And, in 1996, he won the drivers' world championship....

"I know that this is my only chance," said De Villota. "I have only ever raced against men, so it is not a problem. I have to do it.

“And it is not about me being a woman. I am proud of women - we are strong, raise families and do many important things in our lives.

"But this is not like that. It is just about me and the racing..."

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