As has been the case numerous times this year, conditions were in the uncertain corridor between wet and dry, leading to most of the typical frontrunners opting not to go out at all.
In their absence the battle for top spot - at least once slicks became useable - came down to a fight between CRT riders Ivan Silva, Michele Pirro and de Puniet.
It was the Frenchman who shaded it, his fastest time of 1m36.695s just over one tenth faster than Pirro's best.
Silva, the first man to try the soft slick, had lowered the benchmark several times in the closing stages but ultimately paid the price for being in the pits in the final minutes, when conditions were at their best.
As a result he was bumped down to seventh, behind the Ducatis of Nicky Hayden, Karel Abraham and Valentino Rossi and also the Ioda Suter of Danilo Petrucci.
Rossi had been fastest in the wet early exchanges, while Hayden opted to go out only in the final five minutes.
That was still more than the other prototype riders managed.
After a brief excursion, seemingly aimed more at entertaining the crowds than data gathering, newly crowned champion Jorge Lorenzo spent the rest of the session giving pitlane interviews.
There was a scarcity of action in the Honda camp too, with neither Dani Pedrosa nor Casey Stoner heading out.
Tech 3's Cal Crutchlow did at least manage a few laps, but only in the early stages in the wet. As a result he wound up down in 12th position at the flag, some seven seconds off de Puniet's pace.