McLaren’s Jenson Button made best use of changeable conditions to finish FP1 half a second ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Button set his time of 1:16.595 in the first half-hour of running, with the session subsequently interrupted by intermittent showers. The track never got sufficiently wet to impede running and, while most drivers improved their times subsequently, Button’s earlier time was never challenged.
With no 2011 reference for the Pirelli tyres at Hockenheim, and with bad weather forecast for the rest of Friday and worse for Saturday, FP1 was unusually busy, with drivers taking advantage of the mostly dry conditions. When the rain began to fall 25 minutes into the session, many drivers already had a first run completed. At that point Button led Lotus’s Romain Grosjean by 1.767s. Sergio Pérez was third for Sauber a further second back, ahead of Williams tester Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Heikki Kovalainen rounding out the top six.
While most drivers returned to the garage to wait out the shower, the Toro Rossos stayed out on slick tyres, suggesting the track wasn’t badly affected, and a few minutes later most of the field re-emerged. At the hour mark Fernando Alonso had jumped into second place for Ferrari, followed by Hamilton, Nico Hulkenberg for Force India and Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher, with Grosjean dropping to sixth.
Another brief shower caused a few cars to slither wide but everyone continued on slicks, with the exception of the Saubers who did a reconnaissance on the Inter. Just before the end of the session Bottas spun off at the Sachs curve. The Williams snapped as it approached the corner and put the Finn into the tyre barriers with minor damage to the rear
It didn’t materially affect the session. Button’s time stood but Hamilton moved up into second position, albeit half a second slower than his team mate. Alonso finished third, a further three-tenths back, ahead of Schumacher, Pérez and Hulkenberg.