Lewis Hamilton topped the times in the first practice ahead of Sunday's European Grand Prix.
Hamilton's performance hinted that Mclaren may have the speed to get back to winning ways at the Nurburgring after being second best to Ferrari in the last two races.
The rookie Brit clocked a time of 1:32.515, over two-tenths of a second faster than that of his nearest rival Ferarri's flying-Finn Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton's Spanish teammate Fernando Alonso was third quickest. This Formula One season has been totally dominated by Ferrari and McLaren who between them have won each of the nine races so far.
So it was refreshing to see the BMWs of Poland's Robert Kubica and Germany's Nick Heidfeld looking so competitive on Friday morning, albeit in a free practice session.
The German team were delighted with the performance of their car at last weeks testing session in Spa and the good form continued at the Nurburgring with Heidfeld ending up fourth and Kubica fifth.
The morning session began in warm overcast conditions and Ralf Schumacher recorded some early quick laps, much to the delight of the home fans.
Schumacher has been talking positively about recent improvements to his Toyota and he showed some promise for the weekend by finishing seventh.
Another German, Markus Winkelhock is making his debut for Spyker this weekend and he was one of the first drivers to emerge from the pit lane. But Winkelhock was unable to make the kind of impression he may have hoped for.
He finished bottom of the timesheet after a nervy-looking session which included a dramatic spin at turn four.
Nerves could not have been to blame for the experienced Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella losing control at one of the circuit's high-speed corners and ending up in a gravel trap.
His Renault appeared to be undamaged but he only managed to record the 19th fastest time, two and-a-half seconds off the pace.
Hamilton was the first of the big four to record a fast lap, immediately moving to the top of the times. Alonso and Raikonnen soon joined him there, with Kubica and Heidfeld also running well.
The top positions changed frequently in the last ten minutes of the session as the cars lapped with lighter fuel loads. Raikkonen briefly led but Hamilton eventually came out on top.