Although each of the four main players in this year's Formula One world championship took turns to set the pace in second free practice at the Shanghai International Circuit, their order from session one remained unchanged.

Kimi Raikkonen again pipped Fernando Alonso to quickest lap, this time by the reduced margin of 0.006secs, while Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton had to be content with third and fourth, after both again endured excursions into the outer reaches of the circuit. Massa ended the day 0.023secs shy of his team-mate, while Hamilton was comparatively off the pace at +0.269secs.

Raikkonen saved his best for last to ease ahead of the only other driver still able to deprive Hamilton of the world title - stewards enquiry pending of course - and improved on his morning best by four-tenths as the track gained some grip. The frontrunners all experimented with the softer rubber this time around, although there was little discernible advantage in terms of times.

The margin covering the top four was less than that between Hamilton and 'best of the rest' Jarno Trulli, who failed to break into the 1min 36s by just over a tenth. The Italian, however, was similarly three-tenths clear of next man Mark Webber, as Toyota and Red Bull Racing showed stronger hands than they had earlier in the day. Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard shadowed their respective team-mates in seventh and eighth, while Nico Rosberg - 'best of the rest' in the morning session, took ninth, ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella.

The second Renault, of Heikki Kovalainen, was eleventh fastest despite the Finn stopping out on track - a fate that also befell Nick Heidfeld. In a mirror of his morning session, the German was left to help push the BMW Sauber back towards the pits in an effort to make up for what would have been a lot of lost time, but eventually had to settle for 15th in session, one place and a handful of thousandths behind team-mate Robert Kubica. Kovalainen was also able to return in the latter stages, but without breaking into the top ten.

Between the Renault and BMWs, Honda pushed Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello into twelfth and 13th, while Alex Wurz - who sat out the morning session as Williams gave reserve Kazuki Nakajima a run - got close to demoting Heidfeld another spot.

The final six places were filled by the combined Super Aguris, Toro Rossos and Spykers, with Anthony Davidson, Tonio Liuzzi, Adrian Sutil, Takuma Sato, Sebastian Vettel and Sakon Yamamoto lining up in formation.

The opening day ran in dry conditions, but things may change over the weekend with a typhoon reported to be heading towards the Shanghai region.