Barcelona, Spain Michael Schumacher took full advantage of Formula One's new electronic traction control to win the pole in his Ferrari for today's Spanish Grand Prix.
Mika Hakkinen of McLaren switched his off to take the No. 2 spot in qualifying Saturday. McLaren's David Coulthard was third-fastest, and he didn't know if the new high-tech electronic gizmos were completely on or off.
"There are so many things available to us and so many variations," Coulthard said. "There's no way you can possibly understand it because we don't."
Basically, the system reduces wheelspin.
Three-time and defending series champion Schumacher claimed his fourth pole in five tries this season, covering the 2.938-mile course in 1 minute 18.201 seconds.
Hakkinen, who won the race the last three years, came through in 1:18.286 on his final lap. Coulthard, tied with Schumacher for the season points lead, got over the line in 1:18.635.
Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello was fourth, followed by the Williams of Ralf Schumacher, the winner two weeks ago of the San Marino Grand Prix. Next came the Jordan of Jarno Trulli.
Traction control returns to Formula One today for the first time since 1993, largely because FIA, the world motorsports governing body, could not police which teams were or weren't already using it.
Today should be interesting with traction control, launch control (electronic starts) and fully automatic seven-speed gearboxes being thrown into the already high-tech mix of F1.
Glitches are being predicted.
"There could well be a lot of cars sitting on the grid tomorrow not moving anywhere because the system doesn't work quite the way we expect it to," said Coulthard, the only driver to reach the podium in the first four races. "I feel confident.
"The only time you'll doubt the system is when it switches off in the middle of a corner and you'll be going backwards in the gravel. But until that happens, there's no doubt the system has certain advantages."
Two-time series champion Hakkinen, who has only four points in four races and trails Schumacher and Coulthard by 22, needs a breakthrough today or his season could be over. He turned off his traction control on the final lap and said he hadn't "decided yet" what he'll do today.
"If you have some problems with the car in some corners, some you can fix with the throttle," Hakkinen said. "Traction control doesn't let you do that in some places."
Schumacher expressed the most confidence in the system and sneered when it was suggested he was out of his slump. He won the first two races, was second in the third and dropped out two weeks ago with suspension and brake problems.
Spanish Grand Prix Lineup
Today at Barcelona, Spain
Circuit de Catalunya
1. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Germany, 1 minute, 18.201 seconds, 135.248 mph.
2. Mika Hakkinen, McLaren-Mercedes, Finland, 1:18.286.
3. David Coulthard, McLaren-Mercedes, Scotland, 1:18.635.
4. Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, Brazil, 1:18.674.
5. Ralf Schumacher, Williams-BMW, Germany, 1:19.016.
6. Jarno Trulli, Jordan-Honda, Italy, 1:19.093.
7. Jacques Villeneuve, BAR, Canada, 1:19.122.
8. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Jordan-Honda, Germany, 1:19.150.
9. Kimi Raikkonen, Sauber, Finland, 1:19.229.
10. Nick Heidfeld, Sauber, Germany, 1:19.232.
11. Olivier Panis, BAR, France, 1:19.479.
12. Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams-BMW, Colombia, 1:19.660.
13. Eddie Irvine, Jaguar, Northern Ireland, 1:20.326.
14. Luciano Burti, Prost, Brazil, 1:20.585.
15. Jean Alesi, Prost, France, 1:20.601.
16. Enrique Bernoldi, Arrows, Brazil, 1:20.696.
17. Jos Verstappen, Arrows, Netherlands, 1:20.737.
18. Fernando Alonso, Minardi, Spain, 1:21.037.
19. Giancarlo Fisichella, Benetton-Renault, Italy, 1:21.065.
20. Pedro de la Rosa, Jaguar, Spain, 1:21.338.
21. Jenson Button, Benetton-Renault, England, 1:21.916.
22. Tarso Marques, Minardi, Brazil, 1:22.522.