Mercedes' Nico Rosberg topped the timesheets in a red-flagged first practice for the Chinese Grand Prix on Friday.
Formula One championship leader Rosberg posted a time of one minute, 38.037 seconds around the Shanghai International Circuit as he searches for a sixth-straight F1 win.
Defending Formula One world champion Hamilton, who is still looking for his first win in 2016, was 0.146 seconds behind his Mercedes team-mate.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel (+0.638secs) rounded out the top three, while Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo (+1.024secs) and Kimi Raikkonen (+1.118secs) were fourth and fifth respectively.
However, most of the session was spent under red flag conditions after tyre issues affected both Williams' Felipe Massa and Renault's Kevin Magnussen.
Massa suffered a left-rear puncture in the early stages but managed to get his car repaired, only for the same problem to occur as he rejoined the track.
Magnussen had a puncture of his own on the back straight of the circuit, prompting concerns within the paddock over the safety of the Pirelli tyres.
"We had two punctures. Why? I don't know. We are investigating. For sure, something is touching the tyre or the wheel or whatever," Massa told Sky Sports.
"We had no idea why we had the first problem. We checked the car and it was OK. But then we had the same problem."
1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:38.037
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:38.183
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:38.665
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1:39.061
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 1:39.155
6. Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull) 1:39.625
7. Carlos Sainz Jr (Toro Rosso) 1:39.676
8. Jenson Button (McLaren) 1:39.974
9. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) 1:40.169
10. Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso) 1:40.232