Jenson Button took the revised McLaren MP4-27 to the fastest lap time in first practice for the German Grand Prix which was disrupted on numerous occasions by rain. After running off the pace in the last two races, the Woking squad have brought a number of upgrades for this weekend, with revised sidepods and a new rear wing the most visible, and the early indications were positive.
Ominous clouds were lurking as the session got underway and Button was the first man to post representative lap times. The Briton stopped the clock at 1:18.759 on his first flying lap before knocking a second off it second time around. Button, running on the medium compound tyres, pressed on with another lap in the low 1:17s before improving to a 1:16.595. Even though the session was only twenty minutes old, that time wouldn't be beaten.
Romain Grosjean was second at the time, almost two seconds back, before rain fell for the first time. With no on-track action, attention switched to his Lotus teammate Kimi Raikkonen in the pitlane whose car was also boasting some upgrades.
The drizzle didn't completely stop for around half an hour and it was only then that drivers started to improve. Championship leader Fernando Alonso was the first to make inroads, clocking a 1:17.795 in his Ferrari but Nico Hulkenberg edged ahead of him shortly afterwards, albeit a full second off the pace.
Yet another shower halted proceedings temporarily but the final ten minutes were run in virtually full-dry conditions. Michael Schumacher cut the gap to 0.787s but Alonso was back on track in the Ferrari and regained second. Both were soon outpaced though by Lewis Hamilton who established a 1-2 for McLaren, getting within half a second of his teammate.
Hamilton was threatening to get even closer in the dying seconds, setting the fastest middle sector of the morning but his charge was cut short by a crash for Valtteri Bottas who spun his Williams into the wall at the Sachs curve, a move that won't have gone down well with Bruno Senna whose car he was driving.
Behind the McLarens, Alonso was third ahead of Schumacher with Sergio Perez fifth for Sauber. Nico Hulkenberg fell back to sixth ahead of Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa, Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean.
Kamui Kobayashi, who strangely chose to go out on intermediates late in the session, set a time on slicks good enough for eleventh with world champion Sebastian Vettel a low-key twelfth. Bottas was next up ahead Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen who didn't complete a flying lap until the final few minutes.
Jules Bianchi, standing in for Paul Di Resta this morning, was sixteenth in the Force India ahead of the two Caterhams of Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen. Mark Webber, who was one of many drivers to run wide at the Mobil 1 Kurve in the damper conditions, was only twentieth with the drivers of Marussia and HRT keeping him company at the bottom of the order.