MOTOR RACING : SAD MARINO; Heartache as Mum's Death Overshadows Schumi's First Win of Season

Article excerpt

Byline: FRANK HAYNES

HEARTBROKEN Michael Schumacher fought back tears after winning the San Marino Grand Prix hours after the death of his mother.

Schumacher and his brother Ralf, who finished fourth, had flown to Cologne for a final visit to mum Elisabeth on Saturday.

She had endured a long illness and lay in an induced coma in hospital but died in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Despite their grief, the brothers opted to compete and both wore black armbands during the race which they started at the front of the grid.

Elisabeth, who was 55, once worked in the canteen of the Kerpen cart track where the the Schumachers developed their motor racing ability as teenagers.

Michael struggled to hold back tears as he listened to the German national anthem in a solemn podium ceremony that dispensed with the spraying of champagne.

He later issued a statement which read: "My mother loved to be at the track. She loved it when we drove go-carts on the old track at home. She would have wanted to see us race today."

The five-time world champion had overcome his grief to score his and Ferrari's first win since the final race of last season and end his worst start to a season.

But the 65th victory of his 183-race career which kick-started his champion- ship fightback is one that will always be tinged with sadness.

Schumacher had allowed himself a short victory punch of the air after swooping across the Italian track to receive the applause of the Ferrari pit crew.

Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt, who stood in for Schumi at the post- race press conference, said: "It was Michael's decision to race.

"We at Ferrari would never push the driver to drive the car if he is not intending to. It was his choice but it was a very respectable choice.

"It was important that he decided with his brother yesterday to go to Germany and it definitely had the effect of him being more comfortable having been there.

"Michael has shown what he is as a driver and a man and it is a shame that people may not want to understand what he is."

Scot David Coulthard, who raced days after he was in a plane crash in France in 1999 which killed both pilots, paid tribute to the courage shown by his rivals.

Coulthard, who was fifth in his McLaren, said: "It was a difficult situation for them. It is difficult to know what to do. You try to imagine yourself in that situation.

"All you can do is imagine what your mother or your father would want you to do it because they have supported you from such an early age.

"But it must have been on their minds and an uncomfortable position to be in.

"But I admire the fact they got on with the job and in many respects it was the right result if you want to be emotional about it. …