Atletico Madrid's Maria de Villota has withdrawn from this weekend's Superleague Formula meeting at Adria after aggravating an old neck injury.
De Villota, who has driven for Atletico Madrid in all but one of the Superleague rounds the team has entered this year, explained that an injured disc in her neck had caused her extreme discomfort and provided her with only limited use of her right arm during second free practice.
She completed just four laps in the session, with her best effort nearly three seconds slower than that of the next classified car. The Spaniard was confident that withdrawing from the event was a wise choice.
"Doctors told me it would be a difficult decision to take, it was in my hands, but it was just so painful," she said. "When I go into the track I also have a lot of left hand turns, so it's not helping. But I don't know if another track [would be different]... I'm sure it would be the same thing in every track.
"If you can [handle] it, that's OK. I thought I might have the possibility, but once we are here we do know what's the risk and we just think it's better to wait until Portimao. We are going to give the disc a little bit of rest because now it's in a painful moment."
De Villota said today's problem was not unprecedented for her, but was confident that the injury is not as serious as it could be.
"A couple of years ago, I did have another painful moment like this one," she explained. "The disc is in a bad shape, but it's not like every day. Just sometimes it appears, and it's difficult to deal with it. You just have to give it a little bit of calm and then go back. I'm sure it's not [bad enough for] surgery but it's bad enough to wait a little bit."
When asked if she would be fit enough to return to the cockpit in Portimao, she replied: "For sure I'll be there."
De Villota's withdrawal now leaves Superleague with its smallest ever grid, with just 15 cars scheduled to start tomorrow's opening race. Bourdeaux's Franck Montagny and Sporting Lisbon's Andy Soucek withdrew shortly before the event, with both teams citing financial difficulties.