Mark Webber secured the first pole position of his Formula 1 career at the Nurburgring, coming out on top of a thrilling rain-affected qualifying session.
The two Brawns will start second and third, with Rubens Barrichello ahead of Jenson Button, while Silverstone winner Sebastian Vettel only managed fourth on home ground.
After earlier rain, the track had dried in time for the pole shoot-out, which initially saw Barrichello on provisional pole before Lewis Hamilton showed McLaren's improvement by temporarily snatching the top spot.
He could not hold on to it though, as Webber swept through to take the place for Red Bull by 0.127 seconds over Barrichello, with Button and Vettel 0.007s apart on row two.
Hamilton still took a fine fifth, although his team-mate Heikki Kovalainen's sixth was arguably an even better achievement given that he does not have the full array of McLaren upgrades, and that he spun and clouted the wall early in the damp Q2.
Adrian Sutil was the hero of the hour, getting Force India into Q3 for the first time ever thanks to typically excellent wet weather form, and then beating the two Ferraris and Renault's Nelson Piquet to earn a shock seventh on the grid for his home race.
The drizzle started late in Q1, turned to rain by the start of Q2, briefly eased and then returned as the second segment drew to a close.
Barrichello brilliantly timed his Q2 run - sitting out the wetter early minutes then throwing in a lap on slicks in the brief window when the track was slightly quicker. That guaranteed his progress into Q3, while all his rivals had to scrabble through as the rain came down again in the ensuing minutes.
The highest-profile casualty of the late-Q2 lottery was Fernando Alonso, who spun his Renault at the chicane on what should have been his best lap, leaving him 12th - the first time he had ever been out-qualified by Piquet.
Both BMWs were out early on home ground, Nick Heidfeld taking 11th but Robert Kubica struggling to 16th, the Pole looking unlikely to progress even before the drizzle arrived.
Kazuki Nakajima spun on his out-lap in Q2 but recovered unscathed and at least beat his Williams team-mate Nico Rosberg as they took 13th and 15th, split by Toyota's Jarno Trulli.
The Italian's team-mate Timo Glock had a dreadful session, making several errors even on a dry track in Q1 and ending up 19th, alongside the under-pressure Sebastien Bourdais, who went off at Turn 1 on his last flying lap as the rain arrived.
Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:31.257 1:38.038 1:32.230
2. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:31.482 1:34.455 1:32.357
3. Button Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:31.568 1:39.032 1:32.473
4. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:31.430 1:39.504 1:32.480
5. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:31.473 1:39.149 1:32.616
6. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:31.881 1:40.826 1:33.859
7. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:32.015 1:36.740 1:34.316
8. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:31.600 1:41.708 1:34.574
9. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:31.869 1:41.730 1:34.710
10. Piquet Renault (B) 1:32.128 1:35.737 1:34.803
11. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber (B) 1:31.771 1:42.310
12. Alonso Renault (B) 1:31.302 1:42.318
13. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:31.884 1:42.500
14. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:31.760 1:42.771
15. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:31.598 1:42.859
16. Kubica BMW-Sauber (B) 1:32.190
17. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:32.251
18. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:32.402
19. Glock Toyota (B) 1:32.423
20. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:33.559
All Timing Unofficial