Hamilton had taken the initiative early on, going fastest on the hard tyre with 1m 33.475s to Rosberg's medium-tyre best of 1m 33.758s, but on the softs the German managed to regain the advantage with 1m 32.250s to Hamilton’s 1m 32.322s.
However, in qualifying simulations on soft tyres, Mercedes’ advantage over the rest of the field proved far smaller than in FP1, with Kimi Raikkonen just 0.3s off Rosberg’s benchmark for Ferrari, despite struggling with understeer and at one point briefly running off the road.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and the other Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel also got within a second of the ultimate pace, but the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo failed to set a representative time after his best lap was spoiled when Esteban Gutierrez’s Haas stopped with a technical issue, triggering the virtual safety car.
Force India maintained their status as the fourth quickest team with Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg sixth and seventh, while Fernando Alonso continued to offer Honda hope at their home race by placing his McLaren in P8.
The top ten was completed by Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz.
The other Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat was responsible for the session’s most lurid moment, the Russian sending his STR11 into a 360 spin coming out of the final corner after touching the grass. There was also a brief moment of excitement as Rosberg left the pit lane with smoke billowing from his Mercedes, but all was well.
With rain forecast for qualifying, and possibly for the race, this could be the last dry running the teams achieve this weekend.