Hamilton set a time of 1 minute 38.673 to end the day just a tenth up on Vettel after having pipped the reigning world champion by an even narrower margin of three-hundredths of a second in the first session.
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg ended the day a further hundredth of a second adrift in third, ahead of the second Red Bull of Mark Webber on a day when the top four were covered by less than two-tenths of a second.
“I was very happy with how the sessions went today and it’s the first time I can remember that second practice has really gone well for me,” Hamilton said following practice. “We haven’t changed anything but the day just went smoothly and all the processes with the team worked well. “We can still make improvements overnight, and I have some things I want to do with the set-up, but it’s been a good start for us,” he added.
Hamilton’s pace was also comparable to that of his Red Bull rival, holding out the prospect of a much closer race compared to the last round in Singapore, where Vettel was dominant all weekend and won by a margin of over half a minute. Behind the top four, Felipe Massa was the quickest of the two Ferraris in fifth, ahead of the Lotus of Romain Grosjean and teammate Fernando Alonso who expects another tough slog on Sunday after setting a time that was seven-tenths of a second slower than Hamilton’s timesheet topping effort. Kimi Raikkonen — who suffered a big crash in the first practice session — ended the day eighth ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button.