Sebastian Vettel led a Red Bull 1-2 in Friday's second practice in Japan as the Bulls overhauled the Mercedes drivers on the medium tyres.
Pastor Maldonado got the proceedings underway at the start of FP2 but almost immediately began to drop as 21 drivers - sans Jules Bianchi - were quickly into the action with Nico Rosberg leading after the first ten minutes with a 1:34.487.
However, Maldonado's session came to an end with just six laps under his belt when he crashed nose first at the second Degner after running too wide and getting into the gravel.
Sebastian Vettel was the next to hit the front as the Red Bull racer engaged in a battle with the Mercedes drivers for on the hard tyres. Mark Webber joined the tussle at the front in third place while Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa lined up fifth and sixth.
There was a brief lull in activity again when Sergio Perez crashed his McLaren on his eighth lap out. Touching the artificial grass, he "lost the rear" of his MP4-28 through Spoon and hit the barriers with the rear of the car before slamming round and hitting it side it. "I'm okay" he told the team.
Back in the action, it was time to swap to the medium tyres with Webber the first of the front runners to do so, jumping to the top of the pile with 1:34.020. Rosberg went second while Alonso's flying lap ended in a spin at the second Degner. But, unlike many others today, Alonso managed to avoid hitting anything.
But it was all change as Vettel came through for his medium tyre run with the German quickest of all by 0.168s. Hamilton went fourth after a small mistake on his flying lap before he was pipped by Kimi Raikkonen and then Romain Grosjean.
Having done their medium tyres runs, the drivers switched to race set-up midday through FP2, using heavy fuel loads and older tyres.
Raikkonen was the first casualty of old tyres as he lost it and landed up in the gravel at the Dunlop Curve. Session over.
Meanwhile, the Mercedes drivers showed solid long run pace, lapping in the mid 1:40s although Rosberg was down to the 1:38s on his final lap. Alonso was also in the mid 1:40s on the hard tyres while Vettel on the mediums was putting it down in the high 1:39s.
However, it did appear as if the German not only has the better short lap pace but also the advantage over longer distances - although with varying fuel loads that's more of a guess than a fact.
01 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:33.852 35 laps
02 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:34.020 +0.168 35 laps
03 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:34.114 +0.262 36 laps
04 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:34.202 +0.350 17 laps
05 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:34.411 +0.559 30 laps
06 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.442 +0.590 36 laps
07 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:34.473 +0.621 30 laps
08 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:34.698 +0.846 35 laps
09 Jenson Button McLaren 1:34.912 +1.060 34 laps
10 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:35.087 +1.235 32 laps
11 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:35.089 +1.237 36 laps
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:35.109 +1.257 34 laps
13 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:35.182 +1.330 34 laps
14 Paul di Resta Force India 1:35.275 +1.423 35 laps
15 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:35.341 +1.489 25 laps
16 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:35.709 +1.857 8 laps
17 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:36.136 +2.284 41 laps
18 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:36.722 +2.870 6 laps
19 Charles Pic Caterham 1:37.630 +3.778 31 laps
20 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:37.905 +4.053 36 laps
21 Max Chilton Marussia 1:38.121 +4.269 33 laps
Jules Bianchi Marussia