Sebastian Vettel set the pace in the final free practice session for the German Grand Prix as Red Bull proved the team to beat ahead of qualifying.
The world champion waited until the final lap of the session to go fastest with a 1m30.916s ahead of his team-mate Mark Webber.
Fernando Alonso was third fastest for Ferrari ahead of Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg's Mercedes.
Mercedes in fact continued to show encouraging pace this weekend as both drivers were a factor for much of the morning session
Rosberg was the first of the big guns to move to the top of the times after 20 minutes of the hour. His time of 1m34.872s was then eclipsed by team-mate Michael Schumacher five minutes later when the German went fastest with a 1m34.418s.
At half distance the McLarens moved the mark forward as Button lapped the track in 1m33.646s. Hamilton and Ferrari's Alonso also had moments at the top as the times tumbled quickly during this period with drivers finding some temperature on the very cold track.
Rosberg then emerged from the pits on a set of soft Pirellis, earlier than usual - perhaps to counter the fear of rain as the clouds rolled in.
The Mercedes driver went much faster with a 1m33.911s - which he then improved to a 1m31.694s. With 15 minutes to go, that time was still 0.697s faster than Sutil's Force India (a team which also showed pace this morning), while Schumacher - having survived a huge moment - was third.
Alonso then responded with 10 minutes to go with a 1m31.138s lap as a flurry of personal bests began smattering the times from several drivers who had switched to the softs.
Button had a crack at that time with six minutes left of the session but his lap, some 0.485s away from the Ferrari, was only good enough to bump Rosberg to third. Then Hamilton had a try and he too went second fastest, having lost time in the final sector. Red Bull's Mark Webber got even closer, just 0.040s shy of Alonso's lap.
Alonso by this time had dove back into the pits, having completed his programme but the Red Bulls continued on.
Webber then finally moved ahead with a 1m31.049s, only to see Vettel go faster still as the chequered flag fell.
Karun Chandhok added to the drama as the cars returned to the pits, the Indian having a dramatic spin in his Lotus at the final chicane.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m30.916s 15 2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m31.049s + 0.133 16 3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m31.138s + 0.222 12 4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m31.578s + 0.662 13 5. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m31.623s + 0.707 14 6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m31.694s + 0.778 19 7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m32.144s + 1.228 13 8. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m32.391s + 1.475 20 9. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m32.523s + 1.607 16 10. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m32.751s + 1.835 18 11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m32.777s + 1.861 18 12. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m32.813s + 1.897 21 13. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m33.072s + 2.156 18 14. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m33.179s + 2.263 17 15. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m33.531s + 2.615 20 16. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m33.671s + 2.755 20 17. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m33.948s + 3.032 21 18. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m34.125s + 3.209 19 19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m35.385s + 4.469 13 20. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m36.724s + 5.808 21 21. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m36.804s + 5.888 23 22. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m36.894s + 5.978 23 23. Karun Chandhok Lotus-Renault 1m36.959s + 6.043 18 24. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1m37.554s + 6.638 22 All Timing Unofficial