Michael Schumacher left it late but did just enough as the chequered flag fell to escape elimination at the first stage of qualifying for the German Grand Prix.

The Mercedes ace found himself in 18th place with just a minute of the opening session remaining, and was down at the two split times on his final flying lap before pulling out just enough in the final third of the lap to improve by one position and dump Jean-Eric Vergne - who had already pitted - into the bottom seven for the sixth time this season.

The Frenchman joins the usual suspects - Heikki Kovalainen, Vitaly Petrov, Charles Pic, Timo Glock, Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan - on the sidelines, but the spot could easily have gone to either Mark Webber or Romain Grosjean had either made a mistake on their final lap. The Australian caught traffic in the final third, and only moved from 18th to 15th, before gaining another couple of places with his next tour. Grosjean, meanwhile, appeared all at odds with his Lotus, using as much of the run-off as he did the track, but jumped up to twelfth on his best lap. The Frenchman could face sanction from the stewards if he continues to exceed the limits of the track, however, and already carries a five-place gearbox penalty into Q2.

The times were headed by the other Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen, who used the medium Pirelli compound to set a 1min 15.693secs best, putting the Finn ahead of Sergio Perez - who escaped the drop zone by vaulting to second - Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso and Pastor Maldonado.