Felipe Massa was quickest as the drivers swapped their medium Pirellis for the soft tyres, edging Kimi Raikkonen by 0.152s.
Although Nico Rosberg had led the way in the early running on the medium compound, it was Massa who came to the fore when the drivers switched to the softer option Pirellis.
The Brazilian posted a 1:35.340 to edge Raikkonen while his team-mate Fernando Alonso was third ahead of Rosberg.
With the track temperature up to 36'C and the sun baking down on the circuit, Friday's second practice got underway with the two Mercedes and the two Red Bulls leading the way. Nico Rosberg was quickest in the early running with a 1:36.720 while Hamilton was 0.568s down on his team-mate.
But while it was all good at the front, not so much for those trying to get there as Adrian Sutil had a spin at Turn 9 and Sergio Perez ate dirt for the second time today. However, this time the McLaren driver managed to stay off the barries.
The two were joined on the list of incidents by Max Chilton who was forced to park his Marussia when an engine kill switch kicked in due to an oil problem. Fellow newcomer Giedo van der Garde was also having a difficult time as the Caterham rookie had a massive slide that turned his Pirellis to dust.
Back in the action Ferrari launched an attack on the front with Fernando Alonso climbing to third place while Felipe Massa was fifth. Hamilton closed right up on Rosberg, just 0.064s separating the Mercedes team-mates.
It was all change, though, when Mark Webber was the first of the big boys to swap to the soft tyres. The Aussie immediately went quickest with a 1:36.092. However, as the rest of the pack changed to the quicker rubber, Rosberg returned to the front with a 1:35.819. Hamilton, who was held up by a Sauber, went third ahead of Sebastian Vettel.
Massa hit the front with a 1:35.340 while Kimi Raikkonen climbed to second, 0.152s down. It was also a good first run on the soft tyres for Jenson Button as the McLaren driver shot up to fifth place before dropping to sixth as Alonso went third.
As the drivers continued to lap on the soft tyres complaints and concerns began to filter through as the Pirellis degraded. Locks up didn't help the cause as Vettel discovered when he put in two in a row before complaining about "a lot of vibrations."
With marbles building up on the sides of the track, many swapped to heavy fuel runs, which meant no improvements on the timesheets. Chilton headed out with a repaired Marussia only to drop fluid all over the track and Perez who was behind him. He stopped again.
Massa finished at the top of the timesheets with his 1:35.340. That was 0.152s up on Raikkonen with Alonso completing the top three.
1 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:35.340 32 laps
2 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:35.492 0.152 32 laps
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:35.755 0.415 30 laps
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.819 0.479 35 laps
5 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:36.092 0.752 31 laps
6 Jenson Button McLaren 1:36.432 1.092 29 laps
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:36.496 1.156 39 laps
8 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:36.514 1.174 32 laps
9 Paul di Resta Force India 1:36.595 1.255 33 laps
10 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:36.791 1.451 27 laps
11 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:36.940 1.600 16 laps
12 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:36.963 1.623 31 laps
13 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:37.103 1.763 22 laps
14 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:37.206 1.866 39 laps
15 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:38.127 2.787 34 laps
16 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:38.185 2.845 18 laps
17 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:38.211 2.871 32 laps
18 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:38.276 2.936 34 laps
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:38.725 3.385 29 laps
20 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:39.271 3.931 21 laps
21 Charles Pic Caterham 1:39.814 4.474 27 laps
22 Max Chilton Marussia 1:43.227 7.887 5 laps
Friday's Pics From Shanghai