Adrian Sutil called on all his home experience to set the pace during the first practice session for the German Grand Prix, as heavy rain hit the Hockenheim circuit on Friday morning.
Sutil clocked a quickest time of 1m25.701 late in the session to finish over a second ahead of Felipe Massa and Jenson Button in second and third.
With inclement weather expected to play a part for the majority of the weekend, teams flooded onto the circuit to make the most of their track time on both full wet and intermediate tyres. Several drivers had off-track excursions while trying to find the limits of their cars in the slippery conditions, Massa in particular struggling on the wet tarmac.
McLaren endured a torrid session. Jenson Button, known for liking a car with slightly more understeer in his set-up, complained about the pointiness of his McLaren, the twitchy rear end of his car giving him little confidence in the wet.
Team-mate Lewis Hamilton fared even worse, the championship leader losing control of his McLaren at turn three before crashing into the barriers. The car had extensive damage to the rear as well as the left-rear wheel hanging off. McLaren is confident it will be able to repair it before the second session and has a spare blown diffuser to replace the mangled rear end.
With the rain easing and lap times falling, many teams opted to switch to intermediate tyres and the pace improved dramatically in the final few minutes. But Michael Schumacher bizarrely opted to remain on full wets, managing only a handful of laps and finishing well down the order. Ross Brawn later explained that the team was struggling with its rear wing and simply wanted to run a test on the car before attempting a more competitive lap in the second session.
The Mercedes is clearly quick as Nico Rosberg spent much of the session at the top of the time sheets as conditions changed. He finished sixth overall but only because he didn't put a competitive lap in towards the end when the track was at its driest.
As a result of the mixed conditions the times are fairly meaningless and reflect the state of the circuit when the time was set rather than the driver's ability. Therefore, Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso will have no concerns about finishing the session outside the top ten.
Rain is predicted for the second practice session although forecasts have been fairly unreliable so far this weekend.