Heavy rain curtails final practice
Torrential rain brought a premature end to the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the German Grand Prix.
What started off as nothing more than a very light shower over one part of Hockenheim seven minutes from the end of the hour-long session rapidly grew in intensity.
Such was its ferocity and suddenness, drivers and mechanics were drenched as they returned to the pits and their cars pushed back into their garages.
At least there was 53 minutes of dry weather prior to that which allowed the teams to gather data, with a familiar face at the top of the standings and a very unfamiliar one at the bottom.
Championship leader in Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was quickest, the Spaniard posting a time of one minute 16.014secs to oust McLaren's Lewis Hamilton from top spot by just 0.077secs.
Remarkably, at the bottom of the timesheet was Hamilton's team-mate Jenson Button, the 32-year-old nearly five seconds off the pace.
Button, quickest overall yesterday, had completed 21 laps of information gathering on high fuel and the harder of the two Pirelli tyre compounds, the medium.
But just as Button emerged on the faster soft tyre and poised to push himself up the timesheet, the very light rain initially thwarted his run from which there was no recovery once the heavens eventually opened.
Behind the leading duo, Sauber's Sergio Perez again underlined his consistency this weekend with the third quickest time, 0.188secs behind Alonso.
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth for Lotus, followed by Red Bull duo Mark Webber and reigning champion Sebastian Vettel, both just over four tenths of a second adrift.
Webber, however, like Lotus' Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes, faces a five-place grid penalty after the team confirmed today the Australian's car has also required a new gearbox.
Williams' Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna finished seventh and 10th, sandwiching Ferrari's Felipe Massa and second Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi.
Grosjean was 11th and the last of those to finish within a second of Alonso, the Frenchman followed by Force India pair Nico Hulkenberg and Paul Di Resta.
For Mercedes there is the threat of a potentially difficult weekend looming if their form in the session was anything to go by.
Michael Schumacher, who crashed at the end of FP2 yesterday, was down in 15th, with Rosberg 17th, the duo 1.252secs and 1.477secs behind Alonso respectively.