Mark Webber laid down his marker at Suzuka on Friday afternoon as he set the pace ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
In a session that saw two big crashes and one red flag, the Aussie clocked a 1:32.493 to pull two-tenths in front of his nearest rival, Hamilton.
With the track temperature up to a sweltering 39'C the action got underway without Nico Rosberg, who was stuck in the Mercedes garage as his mechanics changed his engine after a suspected oil leak in FP1.
Romain Grosjean set the early pace with a 1:34.514 before the red flags came out when Paul di Resta crashed at Spoon. The Scot put a wheel in the dirt in the inside of the corner and was sent sliding across the track and into the barriers, causing significant damage to the right side of the car.
Practice Two resumed six minutes later with Fernando Alonso the first to make a notable move as he hit the front for the first time on Friday with a 1:34.287. Lewis Hamilton climbed to second.
Jenson Button was the next to lead the way before Sebastian Vettel came to the fore while others struggled to keep within the track's limits. There were offs for Heikki Kovalainen, Kamui Kobayashi and Grosjean while Kimi Raikkonen had a KERS failure that resulted in him having to jump very carefully from his E20 once he pitted.
Halfway through the session the bulk of the field swapped to the softer option Pirelli rubber resulting in a dramatic drop in lap times. Button was the first to take advantage, immediately going quickest before he was overhauled by Grosjean.
Vettel took over at the front before losing out to Hamilton and then Webber in what was proving to a very competitive session amongst the top runners on the softer option tyres.
With just over ten minutes to go Schumacher put in an-almost repeat of di Resta's accident as the Merc driver, who missed a huge chunk of the session as his team changed his car's set-up, lost it at Spoon and hit the barriers hard. He was unhurt.
The session ended with Webber in the P1 slot and Vitaly Petrov in the gravel sans his rear wing which seems to have just fallen off as his car went backwards through the kitty litter.
01 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:32.493 33 laps
02 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:32.707 0.214 31 laps
03 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:32.836 0.343 37 laps
04 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:32.987 0.494 29 laps
05 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:33.093 0.600 28 laps
06 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:33.107 0.614 35 laps
07 Jenson Button McLaren 1:33.349 0.856 21 laps
08 Bruno Senna Williams 1:33.499 1.006 34 laps
09 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:33.614 1.121 31 laps
10 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:33.750 1.257 13 laps
11 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.866 1.373 18 laps
12 Sergio Perez Sauber 1:33.903 1.410 35 laps
13 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:33.983 1.490 32 laps
14 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:34.291 1.798 12 laps
15 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:34.300 1.807 32 laps
16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:34.863 2.370 31 laps
17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:35.080 2.587 33 laps
18 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:35.711 3.218 40 laps
19 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:35.870 3.377 37 laps
20 Timo Glock Marussia 1:36.194 3.701 31 laps
21 Charles Pic Marussia 1:36.636 4.143 28 laps
22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:37.342 4.849 30 laps
23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:37.701 5.208 35 laps
Paul di Resta Force India 2 laps
Friday's Pictures From Suzuka