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Culture

Schumacher Pays Tribute to Mother with Victory

Michael and Ralf Schumacher took to the Imola track in San Marino on Sunday in honor of their mother, Elisabeth, who had died just hours before.

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Mother's pride.

Just hours after the death of their mother, the racing Schumacher brothers, Michael and Ralf, took to the San Marino track on Sunday in a remarkable show of their renowned resilience and single-minded professionalism.

Michael, who with his younger brother had rushed to Cologne on Saturday night to give his mother Elisabeth, 55, a final farewell, gave the Ferrari team an emotional first win of the Formula One season at their home track.

Decision to race shocked friends

Ralf Schumacher mit Bruder Michael

The racing Schumacher's in happier times.

Schumacher’s almost automaton-like focus is the stuff of legend in racing circles and all through the world of sport but even his closest friends were stunned when it was revealed that he and Ralf were to drive in the Grand Prix after their loss. It is also a fact that will sit uncomfortably with many others who already perceive the five times World Champion as more machine than human in his systematic pursuit of victory.

But for the brothers, competing in the race was their way of paying tribute to the woman who was instrumental in the two men’s rise to the very top of their profession. Ralf finished the race in fourth place.

Ralf's lead made way for Michael's win

From the start, it looked as though Ralf would be the successful brother on such an emotionally charged day. The Williams driver, who celebrated his first win at the same track in 2001, outsprinted Schumacher Senior off the starting grid and led for the first 15 laps, repeatedly stifling attack after attack from his brother's squirming red Ferrari in his rearview mirrors.

Michael Schumacher

A Ferrari victory on their home track, Imola.

However, it was Elizabeth's first son who triumphed, beating current championship leader Kimi Raikkonen of McLaren Mercedes into second place, with his Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello in third.

After victory was secured, Schumacher was embraced by the Brazilian Barrichello and was led away from the finish area by Ferrari team boss Jean Todt, keeping his race helmet on. Race officials had waived Schumacher's expected victory reception at the post-race ceremony but he still insisted on appearing on the podium, fighting back the tears as the German anthem played. He did not spray the ubiquitous champagne, which was left unopened by all three drivers.

Mother's wishes

"My mother loved to be at the track," Schumacher said in a statement after the race. "She loved it when we drove go-carts on the old track at home. She would have wanted to see us race today."

Elisabeth Schumacher was a canteen assistant at the Kerpen cart track in Germany where the Schumachers honed their racing skills as teenagers. "My mother and father had always supported us," Michael said after his victory. "They made it possible to do what we do and she would have wanted that we did this race today, I am sure."

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