The reigning world champion’s best lap was 1m 37.219s, compared to the Finn’s 1m 37.662s.
Behind them, Daniel Ricciardo gave encouragement to Red Bull by lapping in 1m 38.311s on the softs for third, leaving Sebastian Vettel fourth on 1m 38.339s in the second Ferrari and Nico Rosberg fifth on 1m 38.399s in the other Silver Arrow.
Neither of the latter duo got a really good run on the softs. Rosberg, who went off at the last corner on his soft-tyre hot lap, had a close call with Raikkonen at Turn 1, whom he eventually passed, when they were doing race runs on the mediums, and later ran close with Vettel when both were on softs.
Vettel, meanwhile, reported that he had to back off when following Hamilton because the Briton had made “several mistakes” which were delaying his progress. The Mercedes driver was one of many to have minor offs, while the Ferrari pilot spun coming out of Turn 3 early on.
However, Ferrari’s long-run pace looked strong enough to suggest that we could be in for another close battle on Sunday.
The session was halted after 51 minutes when Felipe Massa got sideways after suffering a rear wing stall under braking for Turn 14 and, much to his chagrin, kissed the wall with his Williams’ new front wing, tearing off the left endplate. The Brazilian had been about to improve on eighth place at the time, but eventually his 1m 40.423s left him only 17th, once the session resumed.
Later on Daniil Kvyat crashed at the same corner when his Red Bull suffered an apparent brake failure. The Russian had been nursing his car back to the pits at the time after a left rear brake fire had sparked into life during a routine pit stop. He, too, damaged his front wing and was unable to continue, but his 1m 38.737s held up for sixth.
Valtteri Bottas was seventh for Williams on 1m 38.850s, ahead of Felipe Nasr on 1m 39.032s for Sauber. Romain Grosjean was eighth on 1m 39.142s after taking back his Lotus from Jolyon Palmer, as Jenson Button gave McLaren a big fillip with 10th.
Team boss Ron Dennis had beforehand warned observers to “be surprised,” and Button’s 1m 39.275s certainly impressed on a track where the Woking squad had not been expected to go well. Team mate Fernando Alonso fared slightly less well, finishing half a second back on 1m 39.743s, as Pastor Maldonado split the McLarens with a lap of 1m 39.444s in the other Lotus.
Marcus Ericsson was 13th in the second Sauber on 1m 39.751s, ahead of the closely matched Toro Rossos of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz on 1m 39.894s and 1m 39.971s respectively.
Both Force Indias had problems, Hulkenberg with rising gearbox oil pressure and Sergio Perez with his brakes. They were 16th and 19th, sandwiching Massa, on 1m 40.151s and 1m 40.868s respectively.
Both Marussias ran, though Will Stevens lost a lot of time with a suspected power unit problem which was only rectified in time for him to do a few more laps at the end. Robert Merhi was 19th on 1m 42.973s, with Stevens 20th on 1m 44.564s.