Fernando Alonso set the pace for Ferrari as a late rain shower hampered teams' efforts in what was otherwise a fully dry final free practice session for the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.
The Formula 1 championship leader hit the front with 26 minutes to go when he became the first man to try soft tyres and set a 1m16.124s.
Lewis Hamilton actually managed to beat that mark by 0.033 seconds despite still having medium tyres on his McLaren, but Alonso's second soft tyre run put back on top with a 1m16.014s.
Whether that mark would have stood to the end on a dry track would remain a moot point, as rain returned in the final six minutes, preventing the usual flurry of late improvements as teams went into full qualifying mode.
In the event, Hamilton managed to improve his sector one time despite the rain, but would stay second.
Sauber's Sergio Perez also showed impressive pace amid drizzle to take third, ahead of the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen, and the two Red Bulls. Mark Webber was ahead of long-time pacesetter Sebastian Vettel in the end, although the Australian will take a gearbox change penalty in qualifying and lose five places on the grid.
Pastor Maldonado, Felipe Massa, Kamui Kobayashi and Bruno Senna completed the top 10.
Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button were among the drivers who appeared to be focused on longer and heavy fuel runs until the last minutes, leaving them only 15th, 18th and 24th in the final times.
There were few incidents, mar Massa run wide over the bumpy grass on the stadium entry, so the biggest drama was Charles Pic missing much of the session while Marussia carried out a rapid engine change.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m16.014s 14
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m16.091s + 0.077 21
3. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m16.202s + 0.188 21
4. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m16.238s + 0.224 27
5. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m16.447s + 0.433 19
6. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m16.475s + 0.461 18
7. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m16.664s + 0.650 18
8. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m16.771s + 0.757 15
9. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m16.801s + 0.793 25
10. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m16.930s + 0.916 23
11. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m16.962s + 0.948 26
12. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m17.033s + 1.019 26
13. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m17.148s + 1.134 24
14. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m17.238s + 1.224 25
15. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m17.266s + 1.252 22
16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m17.419s + 1.405 23
17. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m17.491s + 1.477 26
18. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m18.366s + 2.352 21
19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m18.818s + 2.804 23
20. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m19.778s + 3.764 22
21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m20.235s + 4.221 22
22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m20.318s + 4.304 9
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m20.741s + 4.727 22
24. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m20.914s + 4.900 25
All Timing Unofficial