Button fastest, Schumacher crashes
Jenson Button was fastest and teammate Lewis Hamilton second as McLaren dominated practice at a wet German Grand Prix on Friday while Michael Schumacher emerged unscathed from an embarrassing crash.
Button and Hamilton both set their times in the morning practice as heavy rain played havoc with the afternoon practice which ended with Schumacher bringing out the red flags.
Pastor Maldonado was fastest for Williams in the second session although the Venezuelan was more than 10 seconds behind Button's time in the first.
Seven-times world champion Schumacher lost control of his car on turn 12 and the vehicle spun out of control across the grass into the barriers in front of the Mercedes stand.
Schumacher emerged unscathed but looking decidedly uncomfortable. He then watched the marshals as they lifted his Mercedes onto a crane.
The session ended at that point, although most of the fans had already left the stands by then looking for somewhere drier.
"Basically I was not fully concentrated," Schumacher told reporters.
"I was on the radio and I was doing some other changes to the car and touched the white line."
Intermittent showers had also made conditions tricky for the drivers although the rain was nothing on the scale which caused chaos at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone two weeks ago.
Finnish test driver Valtteri Bottas crashed his Williams near the end of the opening session, smashing into the barriers on corner 13 and emerging unscathed to survey the damage.
The mechanics were able to repair it in good time to get Brazilian Bruno Senna, the regular race driver, back out for the second session.
Button set the best time of one minute 16.595 seconds early in the session before the rain began while Hamilton, who will be taking part in his 100th grand prix on Sunday, was 0.498 seconds behind.
They were followed by world championship leader Fernando Alonso of Ferrari and Schumacher. However, the conditions meant it was difficult to read anything significant into the timings.
The German Grand Prix, halfway point in the 20 race championship, is seen as crucial to McLaren's season after poor performances in the previous two races saw them slip down the standings to fourth place.
McLaren, winners in Germany last year, have brought a big package of updates to Hockenheim to help them close the gap on leaders Red Bull.
"They looked very competitive this morning, no doubt," said Red Bull's double world champion Sebastian Vettel, who has never won his home race.
"It's a Friday, and it's difficult to draw conclusions. They looked competitive at Silverstone on the Friday as well and then their weekend was not so good."
His Australian teammate Mark Webber, currently second in the championship and preparing for his 100th race for Red Bull, added: "When the track is moving around this much, every lap basically, the laptimes are all over the place and people are very inconsistent with their times."
Despite forecasts of similar conditions for Saturday's qualifying, Alonso looked on the bright side.
"The car behaved well in all conditions which is always a good thing and we were also able to see how the various types of tyre worked and when was the right moment to switch from one to another," said the Spaniard, who started the previous race at Silverstone on pole.
The rain continued after the second practice which was bad news for hundreds of people camped in forests and fields outside the circuit, a Hockenheim tradition.
1. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1:16.595
2. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1:17.093
3. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1:17.370
4. Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1:17.382
5. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber - Ferrari 1:17.413
6. Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 1:17.599
7. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1:17.915
8. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1:17.995
9. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams - Renault 1:18.020
10. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Renault 1:18.130
11. Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber - Ferrari 1:18.226
12. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) RedBull - Renault 1:18.339
13. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams - Renault 1:18.422
14. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:18.709
15. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus - Renault 1:18.831
16. Jules Bianchi (France) Force India - Mercedes 1:18.972
17. Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:19.039
18. Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham - Renault 1:19.674
19. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham - Renault 1:19.963
20. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull - Renault 1:20.122
21. Charles Pic (France) Marussia - Cosworth 1:20.169
22. Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia - Cosworth 1:20.539
23. Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT - Cosworth 1:21.138
24. Dani Clos (Spain) HRT - Cosworth 1:21.740
1. Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams 1:27.476
2. Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes 1:27.564
3. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull 1:27.902
4. Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber 1:28.402
5. Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus 1:28.420
6. Nico Hülkenberg (GER) Force India 1:28.495
7. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Toro Rosso 1:28.513
8. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren 1:28.516
9. Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull 1:28.877
10. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus 1:29.327
11. Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Toro Rosso 1:29.364
12. Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari 1:29.719
13. Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Sauber 1:29.785
14. Charles Pic (FRA) Marussia 1:30.090
15. Timo Glock (GER) Marussia 1:30.220
16. Bruno Senna (BRA) Williams 1:30.291
17. Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Caterham 1:30.331
18. Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India 1:30.437
19. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren 1:30.617
20. Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari 1:31.207
21. Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Caterham 1:32.241
22. Narain Karthikeyan (IND) HRT 1:32.349
23. Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes 1:32.777
24. Pedro de la Rosa (ESP) HRT 1:42.566