The session began in damp conditions, with a steady drizzle falling. James Calado (Lotus) set the first real representative time, a 1m45.919s, which was quickly topped by van der Garde on 1m45.783s, and then Davide Valsecchi (DAMS) on 1m45.152s.
There was then a tiny sweet-spot in the weather window, with Calado banging in a 1m44.034s, quickly followed by van der Garde topping the times on 1m44.022s. Even as he entered the start/finish straight, van der Garde was greeted with a fresh squall of rain, which quickly soaked the circuit - but his lap was good enough for pole by 0.012 seconds.
Fabio Leimer rose to third before skating off briefly into the Sachs Kurve gravel trap, but his Racing Engineering machine was 0.922s behind the pole time. Leimer will start second, however, when Calado's 10-place grid penalty is taken into account.
Nigel Melker followed his eighth on the grid at Silverstone with fourth (effectively third) at Hockenheim for Ocean, ahead of Coloni's Fabio Onidi. Valsecchi will start fifth, a couple of tenths ahead of team-mate Felipe Nasr.
Third-in-points Esteban Gutierrez qualified ninth, which will be 19th due to his 10-place grid penalty. Championship leader Luiz Razia was 10th fastest and will start eighth, two spots behind title rival Valsecchi.
Series newcomer Sergio Canamasas was an impressive 13th fastest, and will start 12th for Lazarus, which was unable to repair Giancarlo Serenelli's car in time after his big free practice crash.
Besides a couple of spins, the only incident of note was van der Garde's team-mate Rodolfo Gonzalez smacking the barrier on the inside of the kink on the back straight. He qualified 24th.