What a difference a touch of rain makes to an F1 track, as Germany witnessed the best qualifying session of the season with Mark Webber claiming his first ever pole position.
The rain started to fall lightly at the end of Q1, however, it was in Q2 that the action really started with drivers sliding off the track on their outlaps before returning in full force to the pits for intermediates.
And although the rain stayed away for the final session it was no less exciting as the top five positions all changed after the chequered flag fell with Webber coming out tops with a 1:32.230. It was the Aussie's first ever pole position and a much-deserved one.
Brawn GP was the team that yet again took the fight to Red Bull Racing with Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button finishing second and third, ahead of Sebastian Vettel. This means the top four drivers in the Championship race will also be the top four on the Nurburgring grid.
Lewis Hamilton, who set the pace in the final two practice sessions, had to settle for fifth place ahead of his team-mate Heikki Kovalainen and Force India's Adrian Sutil.
Under leaden skies with the temperature down at 14C ambient and the track at 22C, all the teams scurried into the pitlane for the start of the session fearful that the skies might open and rain would become a factor.
As it was, the rain held off in the opening minutes and while the cars - which had all been fuelled up for three or more hot laps - circulated, Sebastian Vettel established the P1 time at 1:33.413 on the medium (prime) tyre.
Button edged this down to 1:32.649, Alonso reduced it to 1:31.834 before Lewis Hamilton seized the advantage with a 1:31.686 on the first of a series of three runs which took the time down to 1:31.473 (all on the super-soft option tyre).
Realising that everyone was going to be using the green-walled super-soft tyres, Vettel joined the gang and re-set P1 at 1:31.430, while Mark Webber went even better with a 1:31.257.
A rejuvenated Fernando Alonso was flying in the early stages and making the most of an updated aero package on his Renault. It looked like he would snatch P1 until he came up against the Toyota of Timo Glock trying to give himself a bit of space in the final corner. Alonso still got P2 but even if Glock wasn't in trouble with the stewards, he was in trouble on the track.
Going into the final three minutes the danger positions were: 13.Nakajima, 14.Sutil, 15.Piquet, 16.Kubica, 17.Button, 18.Fisichella, 19.Glock, 20.Bourdais.
There had been rain drops spotting the camera lenses after five minutes, but with two minutes to go it began to rain steadily, giving those in the drop zone no chance of improving their lap time. And though Kubica and Glock set off with the hope of getting into Q2, their mid-lap times were so far down that they didn't bother completing the lap.
So, out went:
Glock was the major casualty, but strange to say after their practice form it was more of a surprise to see Fisichella in the bottom five than it was Robert Kubica.
If the rush to get out of the pitlane in Q1 was evident, then the scramble to get out of the pits for Q2 was like the M25 on a Friday night. And the race to get track position was intense on the opening tour as the rain started to fall again and conditions worsened.
Lewis Hamilton was on the outside of a three-car battle going into one turn, while ahead of them Kazuki Nakajima showed how bad the conditions were getting by spinning his Williams-Toyota under braking.
Everyone was having fun controlling their cars, none more so than Felipe Massa who lost control of his Ferrari exiting the Michelin kurve and found himself tiptoeing round a cinder track behind the gravel trap at the run-off for the BIT kurve.
At the end of a madcap lap everyone barring Mark Webber came in to the pits for Intermediate tyres, leaving the Red Bull driver to struggle on for a fruitless lap on slick tyres.
Out they all came again on inters, led off by Fernando Alonso who set P1 at 1:43.931. This was then superseded by Lewis Hamilton at 1:42.325 with Adrian Sutil taking P2 and then Kazuki Nakajima taking P2 off him.
Everyone was having moments all over the circuit. Heikki Kovalainen passed the tentative Toyota of Trulli only to put a wheel on the white line at the exit of Turn 4 in the Mercedes Arena and spun his car with a gentle bash on the Armco that thankfully only ruined his lap time.
Nick Heidfeld was sensational in the wet at Silverstone and Spa in 2008 and he grabbed P1 with a 1:42.310, Raikkonen took it off him with a 1:41.730 and then Mark Webber put in an astonishing lap, sending the timing screen purple for three sectors with a 1:38.038.
While all this was happening, and Nakajima and Vettel were having a paint-swapping moment in the pitlane, Rubens Barrichello chose to put on dry tyres. The rain had stopped briefly and Rubens saw a gap. His lap time was sensational. He carved almost four seconds off P1 from a 1:38 to a 1:34.469.
Now the rush was to get out there again with dry tyres on.
Going into the final three minutes the danger positions were: 8.Hamilton, 9. Nakajima, 10.Sutil, 11.Trulli, 12.Piquet, 13.Rosberg, 14.Button, 15.Kovalainen
And just as soon as the cars had their slicks back on then it started to rain again. With just seconds of the session remaining, Button and Hamilton had been relegated to 14th and 15th positions. Sutil grabbed P2, then Nelson Piquet took P2 off him.
Fernando Alonso lost it under braking for the Veedol chicane but kept his car out of the gravel despite dipping his front wing in. At the same time Kimi Raikkonen started to rallycross his Ferrari F60.
Across the line they came and Heikki Kovalainen managed to get his injured car into P6, Button's last gasp attempt brought him P5 and Hamilton came home in P6. It had been the most breathtaking Q2 of the season, if not the most eventful since we moved away from single lap qualifying.
For the first time Nelson Piquet Junior had outqualified his team-mate and by a margin of almost seven seconds. Nelsinho just loves the German Grand Prix (he finished in P3 last year). Alonso looked like he had the potential to run in the top five but threw it all away due to his own misjudgement.
Trulli's exit sealed a miserable qualifying for Toyota and the recent upswing of Williams was stopped dead inits tracks.
Unlike the previous two sessions when the green light came on, this time nobody came out at all. There was 8.30 left on the clock when Jenson Button's Brawn GP car broke the silence, but seeing few others come out on track, he came straight in again.
Rubens Barrichello set the provisional pole time with a 1:32.797 and Mark Webber slotted in behind before Sebatian Vettel took P2 off him. The track was drying fast and it looked like everyone was going to save their best till last.
After the early laps, the order was: Barrichello, Vettel, Webber, Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Massa, Sutil, Hamilton, Piquet, Button (who hadn't set a time).
Out they came for either one or two final hot laps. Kovalainen consolidated his P4. Lewis Hamilton jumped to P1 with a 1:32.616, Jenson Button couldn't better it and went P2. Rubens Barrichello passed him for P2, then Mark Webber set pole at 1:32.230.
Vettel, Barrichello and Button were all on hot laps behind him. Hamilton was back in his garage. Though Button set the fastest first sector of anyone, he had a moment in his middle sector and lost 0.5 of a second.
Meanwhile Vettel crossed the line to take P2, but despite Jenson's mistake he took it off the German, and then Barrichello crossed the line to put himelf on the front row in P2 relegating Button to P3 and Vettel to P4.
Hamilton ended up 5th and Adrian Sutil a brilliant 7th for Force India - five Mercedes engines in the top 10. It was Mark Webber's first ever pole position and the Aussie is good in both wet and dry conditions boding well for the race tomorrow.
01 M. Webber Red Bull 1:32.230
02 R. Barrichello Brawn GP 1:32.357
03 J. Button Brawn GP 1:32.473
04 S. Vettel Red Bull 1:32.480
05 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:32.616
06 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:33.859
07 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:34.316
08 F. Massa Ferrari 1:34.574
09 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:34.710
10 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:34.803
11 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:42.310
12 F. Alonso Renault 1:42.318
13 K. Nakajima Williams 1:42.500
14 J. Trulli Toyota 1:42.771
15 N. Rosberg Williams 1:42.859
16 R. Kubica BMW 1:32.190
17 S. Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:32.251
18 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:32.402
19 T. Glock Toyota 1:32.423
20 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:33.559
Source : Planet F1