Maria de Villota, a pioneering Formula One test driver who lost an eye and nearly died in a crash last year, was found dead Friday in a hotel room in Seville, Spain. She was 33.
The autopsy showed "neurological damage" from that wreck likely caused her death, sister Isabel said. She added that her sister died in her sleep about 6 a.m.
De Villota had seemingly recovered from the crash, although she was no longer doing F1 testing. She had written a book about her accident and recently married.
Spanish police said her death was from "natural causes" and there was no indication of foul play. They said De Villota's manager alerted staff at the Hotel Sevilla Congresos after her body was found.
She was in Seville to participate in a conference called "What Really Matters," whose mission organizers said was to teach youngsters "universal human values." The conference was canceled.
De Villota, a Madrid native, was the daughter of Emilio de Villota, who competed in F1 from 1976-82. Her family used her Facebook page to say "Dear friends: Maria has left us. She had to go to heaven like all angels. I give thanks to God for the year and a half that he left her with us."
She was seriously injured last year during testing for the Marussia F1 team in England. She lost her right eye and sustained serious head injuries that left her hospitalized for a month.
De Villota was the first Spanish woman to drive an F1 car. Sport minister Jose Wert announced she would be posthumously awarded Spain's Gold Medal of Sporting Merit.
Jean Todt, president of motorsports' governing body, said from the Japanese Grand Prix: "Maria was a fantastic driver, a leading light for women in motorsport and a tireless campaigner for road safety. Above all, she was a friend I deeply admired."
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, the chairman of the Formula One Teams' Association, added: "She was an inspiration not just to women in this sport, but also to all those who suffered life-threatening injuries."
De Villota first drove an F1 car in 2011, a Renault at the Paul Ricard circuit in Marseille, France. She also had driven in the world touring car championship in 2006 and 2007 plus the Superleague open-wheel series.