Lewis Hamilton and McLaren have come on in leaps and bounds in Germany. After waiting patiently until the factory was ready with the updates, instead of rushing them through for the British Grand Prix, the team have been rewarded with some useful times in practice (leading P2 and P3) and ending up fifth on the grid.

The qualifying was one of the most exciting this year.

Q1 was a normal sort of qualifying, losing Kubica, Buemi, Fisichella, Glock and Bourdais.

Q2 got off to a roaring start with everyone immediately leaping out of the pits on Super Soft tyres, in an effort to beat the rain.

They were three or four abreast, jostling for position, a bit like the dash for the first corner at the start of a race, with the typical carnage. The rain at the start of the session made it tricky. Nakajima started it with a spin, Massa had a moment and ended up creeping round the access road, and Hamilton was squeezed off onto the grass.

Everyone immediately dashed back for intermediate tyres with the McLarens queuing in the pits for the change. Mark Webber tried staying out on the Super Soft tyres, but was 12 seconds slower than normal on just the first sector, so he too came in on the next lap.

The Q2 session was full of action.

Kovalainen continued the entertainment getting on the power too soon and launching off the track at turn three when his spinning rear tyres touched the white paint.

Alonso spun when braking for the chicane and ended up avoiding the gravel trap with some nifty driving by reversing round and back onto the track from the escape runoff. He then went on to post the first time of 1:43.931 on his next full lap.

Raikkonen realised his dream and went rallying off through the fast chicane.

As the track dried after the shower the times started to drop with Hamilton and Sutil one-two. They slipped down the rankings as Webber came up with an excellent 1:38 on Intermediates. Barrichello then showed the way by switching to Super Soft slicks to post his first time of 1:34.469 (three and a half seconds faster than Webber in second) with just three minutes to go. His next lap was one hundredth quicker and kept him top for Q2.

The session ended with Barrichello top followed by Piquet, “Sutil”, Webber, Button, Hamilton and Vettel in seventh, five and a half seconds slower than Barrichello!

Q3 continued to be exciting.

Barrichello was first to put in a complete timed lap of 1:32.797 after five minutes on the Super Soft tyres, while everyone was waiting for the track to dry out. The last five minutes were frantic.

With the clock stopped it was Hamilton, Barrichello, Button, Vettel and Webber, but nearly everyone was still out on timed laps.

Once they had all completed their timed laps, Mark Webber was on top, followed by Barrichello, Button, Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, all within 0.4 of a second. Kovalainen was next a whole 1.2 seconds behind Hamilton.

Sutil was seventh followed by the heavily fuelled Ferraris of Massa and Raikkonen in eighth and nineth. Piquet finished up tenth on the grid, two and a half seconds behind Webber’s pole time.

Will KERS help Hamilton jump to the front at the start?

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