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Mother’s illness can’t deter Schumachers

Imola, April 19 (Reuters): Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher led younger brother Ralf in a family front row sweep in final qualifying for Sunday’s San Marino Formula One Grand Prix while their mother was fighting for her life in hospital.

Germany’s Bild newspaper had earlier reported that 55-year-old Elizabeth Schumacher was in hospital in a coma, but the brothers set aside private concerns to secure their first appearance together on the front row since Germany last year.

However, the brothers left San Marino to join their mother at her hospital bedside in Cologne after the final qualifiers.

A source close to the family said they were flying to Cologne with wives Corinna and Cora and would return Sunday for the race.

“Michael and Ralf wanted to fly back because their mother is ill,” said the source.

The Schumacher family have dominated the San Marino Grand Prix in recent years, Michael winning in 1999, 2000 and last year while Ralf took the first F1 victory at the Enzo and Dino Ferrari circuit in 2001.

Asked at a post-qualifying news conference about his mother and how he had managed to stay focused, the older Schumacher wrestled with his emotions as he replied: “Please, don’t expect an answer.” However, Bild quoted Ralf saying: “Her condition has become a bit more stable but we are still very concerned.”

Michael’s time of one minute 22.327 seconds was just 0.014 quicker than Ralf’s Williams but slower than his own 2002 pole of 1:21.091 seconds.

Meanwhile, Australian Mark Webber, fifth on the grid for Jaguar in the last race in Brazil, repeated the feat with another stand-out performance as the quickest qualifier from outside last season’s top two teams.

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