The Englishman set the pace on the hard Pirelli tyres with 1m 35.424s ahead of Silver Arrows team mate Nico Rosberg on 1m 35.645s, before Daniel Ricciardo caused a stir by separating them with 1m 35.511s on medium rubber for Red Bull.
On the mediums, Rosberg then took the initiative with 1m 34.736s before Hamilton redefined the ante with 1m 34.508s. His pleasure was short-lived, however, as soon after he was forced to pull off the track at The Loop, not long after pulling out of the pits. By then the leading runners had moved into their race simulation work, however, so his time held up as fastest.
Behind the Mercedes duo, Fernando Alonso continued to look at his menacing best with 1m 35.244s for Ferrari, as Ricciardo again led team mate Sebastian Vettel with 1m 35.511s to the German’s 1m 35.627s.
Williams had a much better session than they did this morning with Valtteri Bottas sixth on 1m 36.016s, though later on his engine cover failed spectacularly as he sped down the Hangar Straight to Stowe. Then came the McLarens of Jenson Button on 1m 36.228s and Kevin Magnussen on 1m 36.299s. Kimi Raikkonen was ninth for Ferrari on 1m 36.554s as Jean-Eric Vergne completed the top 10 with 1m 36.583s. The Frenchman’s satisfaction, like Hamilton’s, was not to last as the left-front wheel of his Toro Rosso later worked loose; he was lucky to stop at the first corner before it detached itself.
After his gaffe at Stowe this morning, Felipe Massa missed the first half hour of the session while Williams repaired all four corners of his FW36, but within two laps on the hard tyres he had gone a tenth quicker than team mate Bottas. Subsequently, however, he only cut down to 1m 36.671s on the mediums tyres, for 11th.
Daniil Kvyat was 12th after surviving a Massa moment of his own at Stowe; he lapped his Toro Rosso in 1m 36.778s as Esteban Gutierrez made Sauber the final runner below 1m 37s, with 1m 36.951s.
Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean continued to fight with their ill-handling E22s, and both had off-track moments; the Venezuelan was the quicker this time with 1m 37.064s but the Frenchman was right behind him with 1m 37.097s. Force India were also close-matched, with Sergio Perez 16th on 1m 37.236s and Nico Hulkenberg next on 1m 37.449s. Adrian Sutil managed 1m 37.520s for Sauber.
Jules Bianchi suffered battery issues early on but was next up for Marussia on 1m 38.658s, just ahead of Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi with 1m 38.671s. Marussia’s Max Chilton complained of excessive rear tyre wear as he clocked 1m 39.068s, whilst the final spot was taken by Marcus Ericsson on 1m 39.224s. The Swede’s session ended early as his Renault engine failed with sufficient force to blow a hole in the Caterham’s engine cover.