Hamilton, who is bidding for a hat-trick of victories in front of his home crowd this weekend, posted a best lap of one minute and 31.654 seconds to finish the first session at an overcast Silverstone just 0.033 sec ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Championship leader Rosberg and Hamilton will be free to race for the remainder of the season despite their final-lap collision at the Austrian Grand Prix.
It had been feared that Mercedes would introduce team orders in the fall-out of the Spielberg crash which boss Toto Wolff described as “brainless”.
But Formula One’s all-conquering team instead issued a final warning to both their drivers with Hamilton and Rosberg warned they could be fined – or worse banned – if they collide again.
The decision by Mercedes not to implore team orders will come as a welcome relief to Hamilton, who trails Rosberg by 11 points in his quest for a third successive championship, and indeed a record crowd of nearly 140,000 spectators expected at the Briton’s home track on Sunday.
Earlier on Friday, Ferrari ended speculation surrounding their driver line-up for the 2017 campaign by retaining Kimi Raikkonen for one more season.
Raikkonen’s Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who was fourth fastest and nearly one second slower than Hamilton on Friday morning, also trialled a modified version of the halo in the opening moments of the 90-minute session.
The so-called ‘halo 2’, which is set to become mandatory next season, is a lighter, modified version of the driver-head safety device which was first trialled in winter testing.
Hamilton subsequently described the concept as the “worst looking modification in Formula One history”, and the latest version is unlikely to appease the world champion with its aesthetics remaining largely unchanged.
Instead the shape of the halo has been altered to avoid a driver hitting his head on the structure in an accident. It is also lighter than the first version, too.
For Jenson Button, the 2009 world championship, this could yet be his last British Grand Prix.
Button, out of contract with McLaren at the end of the season, was 12th on Friday morning. Jolyon Palmer, the British rookie, was 16th in the order.
Elsewhere, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was an impressive third with Daniel Ricciardo in fifth and Raikkonen sixth.