Fernando Alonso is in a state of disbelief following the death of former Marussia reserve driver Maria de Villota.

De Villota was found dead in her hotel room in the Spanish city of Seville on Friday morning, and the news of her demise has sent shockwaves through the sport.

Double world champion Alonso heard the news climbing out of his F138 following a difficult day behind the wheel at Suzuka.

"It’s hard to talk about Maria de Villota right now," he said. "I had only just taken my helmet off, when I was told about her death and at the moment.

"I still can’t believe it and need a while to stop and think about it."

Alonso believed the emotion from the sad news of de Villota's death would be felt well beyond F1.

He said: "Of course, it’s very sad news for the world of motorsport as Maria was loved by everyone. Now, all we can do is pray for her and for her family."

On the track the Spaniard endured a difficult day and hopes there is plenty that can be done to improve.

"We were not as competitive as we wanted to be," he claimed. "Now we must try and improve, putting together a series of changes that we already have in mind."

Alonso was one of a few drivers to have an incident at the Degner curves during second practice, but the Ferrari driver said his spin had little effect on his running.

"Luckily, when I spun I didn’t ruin the tyres," he explained. "We also managed to use them on the long run with a full fuel load, even if we definitely lost a few extra tenths from the first lap."

Looking ahead to qualifying Alonso said the biggest aim was to beat those midfield teams that were faster than him today in practice.

"We hope to get a clean lap tomorrow and to be ahead of those cars, such as the Toro Rosso's and the McLaren's that we cannot have in front of us, as happened today".

The Japanese Grand Prix takes place at the famous Suzuka circuit on Sunday.

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Formula 1