Hakkinen and Button set morning pace

Mika Hakkinen's time remained fastest at the end of the second Saturday morning session at Spa

Hakkinen and Button set morning pace

However, the McLaren driver's closest rival at the end of the two 45-minute sessions was none other than outgoing Williams driver Jenson Button. A late lap by the British driver brought him to within 0.3s of the reigning champion.

Jordan's Jarno Trulli also improved his pace to go third fastest, 0.5s slower than Hakkinen. His team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen slipped from second to fourth after mechanical problems left him stranded at the trackside early in the session.

Williams' Ralf Schumacher and McLaren's David Coulthard did not improve and stayed fourth and fifth respectively.

Meanwhile, Ferrari's frustration continued. Michael Schumacher shaved 0.1s off his earlier time but remained seventh, while his team-mate Rubens Barrichello spent most of the session languishing in 17th, before going 1.5s quicker than he had before and moving up to a still disappointing ninth position behind Jacques Villeneuve's BAR.

The only other significant improvement came from Benetton's Giancarlo Fisichella. A lowly 20th after the first session, he saved some face for his team by moving up to 12th.

Marc Gene was unable to repeat his surprising Friday form for Minardi but at least provided some entertainment when his car shed its engine cover near the end of the session.

With qualifying just two hours away, Hakkinen has plenty of reason to be confident about his chances, as do the Williams and Jordan teams. However Ferrari must either make radical progress before qualifying or pray for a monsoon.

For the combined times from this morning's two practice sessions click here.

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