Mark Webber coped best during a damp first practice session to set the fastest time, before grinding to a halt shortly after the end of the session. The Australian set two consecutive flying laps that were comfortably quicker than anyone else but didn't make it back to the pits at the end of the session, although the Red Bull team seemed unconcerned by the stoppage.
The first morning of the British Grand Prix weekend dawned to typically British weather, with grey skies overhead and a wet track awaiting the drivers, who had no option but to go out on intermediate tyres.
Conditions steadily improved and Fernando Alonso held the fastest time of 1:48.161 with half an hour to go, only for further rain to fall. This seemed to end any hopes of the times tumbling any further, particularly when Kamui Kobayashi lost control coming onto the pit straight.
The Sauber strayed onto the kerb exiting Club before spearing off into the tyre barrier, luckily staying on all four wheels after being briefly launched into the air.
But with less than ten minutes to go, Webber re-emerged to take over a second off Alonso's time, with Michael Schumacher moving up to second on his final lap, 0.660s adrift. Rubens Barrichello, Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa also timed their final laps well to complete the top five.
Nico Rosberg had previously held second place but was bumped down to sixth ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Nico Hulkenberg was ninth for Force India ahead of Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari with teammates Paul di Resta and Sebastien Buemi next up.
World Champion Sebastian Vettel was only 13th ahead of Pastor Maldonado, with closest championship rival Jenson Button in 15th but with conditions constantly changing, the times don't reflect the true pecking order going into the weekend.
The two Renaults were 16th and 17th with Nick Heidfeld ahead of Vitaly Petrov, while Kobayashi dropped to 18th after failing to complete the session. The usual suspects rounded out the field with Jarno Trulli edging out Karun Chandhok, standing in for Heikki Kovalainen in FP1, with Timo Glock, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Jerome D'Ambrosio and debutant Daniel Ricciardo competing the line-up.
With the stricter regulations regarding off-throttle blown diffusers coming into force this weekend, the teams were desperate for some dry running as they looked to evaluate their cars. McLaren were so desperate in fact that they sent Hamilton out on dry tyres midway through the session for some straight-line aero testing. The Briton was forced to tiptoe around and despite a trip through the run-off at Abbey, made it back to the pits unscathed.