Williams backs Ralf after brave display

Sir Frank Williams has paid tribute to Ralf Schumacher's efforts at Imola, which have given his team its first front row start of the season

Williams backs Ralf after brave display

Speaking shortly after his driver had left the paddock with elder brother Michael to visit their sick mother Elisabeth in hospital in Cologne, Williams said: "Ralf's performance is a credit to him. His mother would appear to be terminally ill and he's gone off with his brother now to maybe see his Mum for the last time. That's as I understand it. Obviously he had a lot on his mind today and he made a good recovery from his accident this morning. He was really flying and the car was dancing."

Williams poured cold water on speculation that Schumacher Jr might not see out the final year of his current Williams contract in 2004.

"There has been some speculation about his future but it's total nonsense," Sir Frank said. "We have a perfectly valid contract in both directions until the end of '04 and we have every intention of supporting that. Witness today's performance. Only a fool would do otherwise."

Commenting on Schumacher Jr's general performance level thus far this year, Williams said: "He's been a little erratic but at the end of the race he's been around, often from a lowly grid position."

Asked whether he though his driver was performing up to the level of his not insubstantial wages, however, Williams said: "No comment whatsoever. You know I'm not going to answer that..."

He denied, however, having had dinner with Giancarlo Fisichella in Imola.

"I've been told about that but nobody's invited me yet." Williams smiled.

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