Max Verstappen says he doesn’t expect to be able to challenge for pole position at Spa-Francorchamps despite showing impressive pace in Friday practice.

Verstappen topped the time-sheets in second practice ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo with the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas only managing third and sixth fastest.

Mercedes has taken pole at every race this season and Verstappen expects this trend to continue into Saturday’s qualifying.

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“I personally think they [Mercedes] are still struggling a bit with the balance so I expect them to be stronger tomorrow,” Verstappen said. “You can see already in the long runs they are very competitive. I’m not expecting to be fighting for pole position but if we can be a bit closer that would be good.”

With Racing Point and Renault looking strong over one lap, Verstappen expects both teams to challenge Red Bull in qualifying.

“I think they will be very close, Verstappen added. “So it will be tricky with them in qualifying, but then in the race, it should be alright.”

Alexander Albon enjoyed a strong Friday, ending second practice in fourth.

The Thai driver was happy with the balance of his Red Bull and is feeling confident for the rest of the weekend. 

“From the very first lap the car felt strong,” Albon said. “We brought some things here this weekend and it’s making the car gel a little bit better, through corners [the] balance feels good as well. So I’m happy that it’s progressing in the right way.

“There are definitely people like the Renaults and Racing Points that are targeting the straight line a bit more than we are. We’ll see how it plays out.”