Teams do not expect the heavy rain that began Friday morning to continue into the weekend, giving even less reason than usual to take to a wet track in practice one.
After initial installation laps, most drivers chose to wait in the pits, leaving the large crowd to entertain themselves before an empty track.
Finally with less than a quarter of an hour left Toro Rosso's Ricciardo became the first man to actually set a lap time, crossing the line in 2m00.029s.
That prompted others to come out, and ultimately 11 drivers completed flying laps through the puddles.
Lewis Hamilton was fastest on a 1m55.033s in his Mercedes going into the final moments, but Ricciardo regained his top spot with a 1m54.249s.
Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg and Williams driver Pastor Maldonado then slipped into second and third, demoting Hamilton to fourth.
Esteban Gutierrez and Valtteri Bottas completed the top six, despite a late spin for the former.
Kimi Raikkonen was the only driver not to take to the track at all. His Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean, Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Sergio Perez all confined themselves to a single tour then stayed in the pits.
Proving that track conditions definitely were treacherous, Charles Pic crashed his Caterham at Club late on. The Frenchman was unhurt.