Qualifying for the European Grand Prix was interrupted by a major crash in the third session when Lewis Hamilton hit the barriers at the Schumacher S.
Once action resumed it was Kimi Raikkonen who took pole for Ferrari after a mistake by Fernando Alonso confined him to second.
Felipe Massa took sixth and Hamilton fell to tenth – but it is not yet clear whether he will be able to race.
Although the Mclarens and Ferraris were in a class of their own in practice BMW’s Robert Kubica managed to get among them in them on Saturday morning, matching Fernando Alonso’s fastest time.
Alexander Wurz also went out early, setting a 1’33.0, clearly keen to avoid being knocked out in the first round.
The Super Aguris briefly appeared top of the times – Takuma Sato on a 1’32.6, 0.3s quicker than Anthony Davidson – but Lewis Hamilton was the first of the quick drivers out and took the top spot with a 1’31.587.
Kimi Raikkonen edged past with a 1’31.522 but Alonso found half a second more to go fastest at 1’31.074.
Wurz, meanwhile, found another nine tenths of a second to hold sixth.
The midfield was so tight that four drivers from different teams had set 1’32.6 laps – Mark Webber, Rubens Barrichello, Jarno Trulli and Takuma Sato.
Renault continued their poor form from practice with Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella 13th and 15th ahead of the final scramble for laps.
Most drivers came out for a final stab at a quick lap but David Coulthard did not get out quickly enough to set a lap. After his first lap was spoiled by running too close to team mate Webber he was, limited to 19th at best.
Winklehock’s final lap was ragged, 0.6s slower than his first attempt, and confined him to the back of the grid.
Bottom six drivers’ times for part one
17. Jenson Button 1’32.983
18. Scott Speed 1’33.083
19. Vitantonio Liuzzi 1’33.148
20. David Coulthard 1’33.151
21. Adrian Sutil 1’34.500
22. Markus Winkelhock 1’35.940
Felipe Massa was the first man to duck below the 1’31.s, despite locking his brakes at the chicane. Hamilton also locked up, at the Dunlop hairpin, but took second, until team mate Alonso pipped him.
Renault were struggling for pace and Fisichella lay 11th, top of the ‘drop zone’. Behind him were Barrichello, Webber and Wurz, then the two Super Aguris of Sato and Davidson. Everyone bar the top four (McLaren and Ferrari) returned for a final lap.
Fisichella not only failed to improve, he slipped down to 13th while Kovalainen, three tenths of a second faster, was safe in eighth.
Jarno Trulli spun off at the chicane and yet narrowly scraped through, his previous time good enough for tenth. Webber shot into seventh but it was curtains for both Williams and both Super Aguris.
At the top of the times Massa led Alonso by seven hundredths of a second, promising a very close fight for pole.
Bottom six drivers’ times for part two
11. Nico Rosberg 1’31.978
12. Alexander Wurz 1’31.996
13. Giancarlo Fisichela 1’32.010
14. Rubens Barrichello 1’32.221
15. Anthony Davidson 1’32.451
16. Takuma Sato 1’32.838
Massa led the drivers out but Hamilton stalked him around every corner of the Nurburgring, while Alonso hung back in the pits and came out later to get more clear running.
The field darted in with eight minutes remaining to switch their soft tyres. Hamilton came out behind Massa and tried to overtake the Ferrari, but Massa delayed him at every corner before the McLaren driver dropped back.
Hamilton’s first sector was quicker than Massa’s but as he turned into the flat-out Schumacher S something appeared to break on the right-front of the car. The McLaren hit the barrier hard and the session was stopped straight away.
Hamilton was taken away from the accident scene in the stretcher but was able to wave to the crowd on his way.
The session resumed 25 minutes later with five minutes and 13 seconds remaining. Nick Heidfeld led the remaining nine runners out once the qualifying session resumed.
Most of the drivers did one quick lap to get an extra lap of fuel back for going out to set a lap time.
Massa set a 1’31.778 but team mate Raikkonen was through in a few seconds to take provisional pole with a 1’31.450.
Alonso’s first sector was two tenths quicker than Raikkonen’s but a lurid mistake in the middle of the lap cost him half a second. He beat Raikkonen in the final sector but lost pole position.
The BMWs of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica took up their customary positions behind the McLarens and Ferraris, with Webber an excellent sixth ahead of Kovalainen.
Both the Toyotas also set faster times than Hamilton, who will start tenth tomorrow if the medical team believe he is up to it.
Top ten drivers’ times for part three
1. Kimi Raikkonen 1’31.450
2. Fernando Alonso 1’31.741
3. Felipe Massa 1’31.778
4. Nick Heidfeld 1’31.840
5. Robert Kubica 1’32.123
6. Mark Webber 1’32.476
7. Heikki Kovalainen 1’32.478
8. Jarno Trulli 1’32.501
9. Ralf Schumacher 1’32.570
10. Lewis Hamilton 1’33.833
Photos: Ferrari, Spyker F1 | Peter J. Fox/Crash.net, Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic, Red Bull/GEPA, BMW