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Maria De Villota returns to paddock at Barcelona

May 11, 2013, 9:46 PM EDT

Spain F1 Female Drivers AP

For the first time since losing her right eye and almost her life in a testing accident last summer, Spanish driver Maria de Villota visited the Formula One paddock at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

De Villota was anxious to make her return, telling the Associated Press that she couldn’t sleep the night before because she wondered how it would make her feel. Upon going through the paddock, she got to speak with fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Sergio Perez, but she encountered multiple emotions as well.

“It’s a mix of adrenaline and also a little bit of sadness,” she told the AP’s Jerome Pugmire at the Circuit de Catalunya. “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.”

On July 3, 2012, De Villota suffered extensive head and facial injuries after crashing a Marussia machine into a support truck during straight-line testing at Duxford Aerodrome in England. She underwent multiple surgeries and doctors continue to keep tabs on her progress.

However, even though her F1 career was cut short, De Villota continues to look toward the bright side.

“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,” said De Villota, who still considers motorsports as her “escape.”

According to the AP, De Villota is currently focusing on raising funds for the Ana Carolina Diez Mahou Foundation, which serves children stricken with mitochondrial and neuromuscular diseases.

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