Just as the sun occasionally peeked through the clouds covering the Nurburgring, so there was a chink of light in a dark tunnel for Lewis Hamilton and McLaren as the Briton stole the honours on day one of the German Grand Prix.
After team-mate Heikki Kovalainen had opened the second 90-minute session of the day at the top of the timesheets, Hamilton sealed the deal for McLaren by being there when it mattered, having set his best - and the overall fastest - lap of the day in the closing minutes. The reigning world champion posted a 1min 32.149secs effort to shave nearly a full second off Mark Webber's morning benchmark, and ended the day leading the Australian's Red Bull Racing team-mate Sebastian Vettel by a little under two tenths.
Hamilton, however, will be the first to admit that his performance probably means little in the scheme of the entire weekend, with McLaren still expected to struggle when it matters, even though it has brought a revised package to the Eifel Mountains.
The Briton was followed by a quartet more likely to be scrapping over pole position on Saturday afternoon, with Vettel in second followed by current points leader Jenson Button, Webber and Toyota's Jarno Trulli, all of whom - along with the impressive Adrian Sutil - lapped within half a second of the ultimate pace. Button and Vettel - the latter now recovered from his earlier electrical gremlins - both took turns at the head of the times during the session, while Webber remained a vigilant threat throughout the day.
Sutil, meanwhile, continued Force India's good start to the meeting, started by Giancarlo Fisichella's fifth spot in the morning, and provided himself with some redemption after completing just six laps before pulling up lame in the morning. Ironically, this time around, it was Fisichella who failed to go the distance, managing just three tours before crashing out early in the 90 minutes as a brief shower passed over the circuit.
Rubens Barrichello - another to enjoy a better session - Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Nelson Piquet Jr rounded out the top ten as the two Ferraris sank down the order as they followed their own particular preparation routine. Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen, having been third and sixth respectively in the morning, ended the day twelfth and 16th overall, Kovalainen, having led the early moments of the warmer, but still interrupted, session, wound up ahead only of the hapless Fisichella and the two Toro Rossos.