Wet and wild! Drivers struggle in treacherous conditions at Silverstone practice in front of record crowd
12:34 GMT, 6 July 2012
The expected heavy rain and grey skies dominated first practice ahead of Sunday's British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Remarkably, the atrocious weather failed to dampen the enthusiasm of many of the fans, with a record 80,000 for a Friday looking on.
Those under the grandstands would have been naturally welcome of the shelter, but those in the open air were subjected to a non-stop deluge throughout the 90 minutes as they huddled under umbrellas.
Wet and wild: Vitaly Petrov (above) and Romain Grosjean (below) struggle to keep their cars on track
When the session began the rain was relatively light, allowing the majority of the field an opportunity to get out on track.
Ordinarily, wet weather on many other circuits around the world would result in the drivers opting to sit in the garage knowing warmer, drier climes would be on the way.
But with more rain forecast across the weekend as Britain's sorry summer evolves into the wettest on record, there was a case to at least get some laps under their belts.
Home favourites: Hamilton (above) and Button below kick up spray on the Silverstone track
Unfortunately, the rain grew in intensity as the session wore on, resulting in the teams and drivers deciding to avoid the worst of the conditions.
Appreciably there were a number who spun through the puddles, fortunately without accident.
As Marussia's Timo Glock jokingly remarked: 'Bit of swimming today. Only six laps in FP1. UK weather is unreal.'
It has to be remembered, as teams only have three sets of full wet Pirelli tyres for a weekend, they were taking precautions not to do too much running and so waste their rubber.
Saturated: Stewards work to sweep water of the track
Come the conclusion it was Lotus' Romain Grosjean at the top of a largely irrelevant timesheet, even for a Friday, with a lap of one minute 56.552secs, completing the second-highest total of 13 laps.
Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo was 0.275secs adrift, with Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren the only other driver to finish within a second of Grosjean, the home hero 0.622secs down.
For the record, Sauber's Sergio Perez was 1.112secs behind with Felipe Massa in his Ferrari and Red Bull's Mark Webber 1.567secs and 1.911secs off the pace.
Record crowd: The weather did not prevent fans from flocking to Northamptonshire
Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi and Michael Schumacher for Mercedes were also inside two seconds of Grosjean, with the former managing 19 laps, but also under investigation by the stewards for a pit-lane entry infringement.
Reigning double world champion Sebastian Vettel was 2.862secs down in 11th, with McLaren's Jenson Button over five seconds adrift in 17th.
Tough test: Rain is forecast throughout the weekend
Current championship leader Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari and the Force India duo of Paul di Resta and reserve Jules Bianchi, standing in for Nico Hulkenberg, all failed to set a time as they managed four, three and one installation lap respectively.
Beyond the track it became clear Silverstone's traffic management system, given a 1million upgrade for this year, was falling apart as many fans were Tweeting about the horrors of being stuck in stationary traffic, missing out on the first session.
Meanwhile, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber unveiled their Wings for Life cars ahead of this weekend's British Grand Prix.
Both will drive their specially-branded RB8s, which each feature more than 25,000 photos that have been sent in by fans, throughout the race weekend.
Wings for Life: Webber sits in the charity-sponsored Red Bull car
Organised for Wings for Life, the charity that is striving to find a cure for spinal cord injury, the initiative was open to fans all over the world who wanted to race with Webber and Vettel at this year's Silverstone race and support an incredible cause.