Despite not troubling the likes of Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari in either Friday practice session at Spa, both Williams drivers insisted that the team was in better shape than at the last round.

Hungary, like Monaco, proved a poor match for the FW37 so, when Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa ended Friday in 14th and 16th position respectively in Belgium, doubts about their potential began to creep across the paddock.

Inside the garage, however, things were more upbeat, as Williams again ploughed its own Friday furrow, content to work through a prescribed programme rather than chasing times.

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"I think it was a typical Friday," Massa pointed out, "We're never so competitive on a Friday and it was another one. Maybe the way we're working is a little bit different to other teams or whatever, I don't know, but the only thing is that we did a little bit of what we expected, but not so much because of the red flags. I still believe we can be competitive, I still believe we can be in a good shape and that's what really [matters]..."

"I think it was definitely better than Hungary for us," Bottas added, "We're renewing our test plan, and here, especially, when you turn up the engine, it makes a big difference. We know we can be much higher in the timesheets but we were just really trying different rear wing levels and getting information from the tyres.

"We're still trying different things between every run and I'm sure we'll get the best config in the car with the options. There's more to come and I think we can be close to [Red Bull and Ferrari]. They are definitely looking strong, but I think we can improve quite a lot."

Like its rivals, Williams' attempts to work on a long run programme were interrupted by a brace of red flags - for Nico Rosberg and Marcus Ericsson - and Massa admitted that that part of the build-up would probably have to be completed in final practice.

"We didn't understand a lot from the long runs because it was one lap, two lap, stop, and then another lap, stop," the Brazilian related, "It was not so useful but we need to think about what is the most important thing and if it is important [to complete it in FP3] then maybe we should do that.

"I think it should be okay, and I think we can be competitive. We were very slow [on Friday] at Silverstone but were very quick in the race, so let's wait and see."