Hamilton was fastest on Pirelli’s medium compound tyre with 1m 36.506s, and stayed ahead when everyone switched to the soft tyre two-thirds of the way through. He ended up on top by 0.365s from Rosberg after lapping in 1m 34.325s to his team mate’s 1m 34.690s. At one stage the German got it all wrong at Turn 10, and regained the track in a wide clockwise loop after failing to make the left-hander. He also was deemed to have impeded Sergio Perez's Force India, and was handed a reprimand by the stewards as a result.
Fernando Alonso, Mercedes’ closest opposition in the Ferrari, was just over a second behind Hamilton, with 1m 35.360s. And he had no shortage of company as six tenths of a second covered the 11 runners down to 13th place.
It was a difficult day for Red Bull, from which Daniel Ricciardo salvaged fourth place on 1m 35.433s, a time which Williams’ Felipe Massa narrowly failed to beat. The Brazilian didn’t run for most of the session but soon carved down to 1m 35.442s once he did get going. That pushed Jenson Button down to sixth after he’d lapped his McLaren in 1m 35.528s, perhaps a little better than some team members had been expecting after the MP4-29’s lack of speed in Sepang last week.
Sebastian Vettel lost a little time with a downshift problem early on, then struggled on the medium tyre and eventually had to settle for seventh place on 1m 35.606s. The Red Bull driver had the two rookies Daniil Kvyat and Kevin Magnussen right on his tail for Toro Rosso and McLaren respectively, with laps of 1m 35.640s and 1m 35.662s.
This time Perez was Force India’s faster runner in 10th place with 1m 35.802s, ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, who like team mate Massa did not run much. The Finn recorded 1m 35.920s to lead spinner Jean-Eric Vergne on 1m 35.972s and Nico Hulkenberg in the other Force India on 1m 35.998s.
Kimi Raikkonen, whose Ferrari needed repairs after launching over a kerb in FP1, had an unhappy day and was down in 14th place with 1m 36.366s. That left him ahead of the close-matched Saubers of Adrian Sutil (who briefly stopped on track) and Esteban Gutierrez on 1m 36.962s and 1m 36.975s respectively.
The Lotuses came in two by two too, with Pastor Maldonado on 1m 37.259s after a scary aerial moment over the Turn 4 exit kerb, and Romain Grosjean on 1m 37.599s. Jules Bianchi headed Marussia team mate Max Chilton with a good lap of 1m 37.800s. The Briton did 1m 38.247s before his MR03 spun wildly out of control at Turn 4 after a front-left brake disc failure.
At the back the Caterhams were close to Chilton, with Kamui Kobayashi on 1m 38.257s and Marcus Ericsson on 1m 39.136s. Towards the end the Swede rolled to a halt with mechanical problems.