Lewis Hamilton thinks Red Bull have the edge over Mercedes at the Belgian Grand Prix, but Max Verstappen played down his chances of securing pole.
Verstappen produced the fastest lap of practice at Spa on Friday, clocking a time of one minute, 43.744 seconds in FP2.
Hamilton was third quickest behind Renault's Daniel Ricciardo, with Red Bull's Alex Albon and Sergio Perez of Racing Point ahead of Valtteri Bottas – who celebrated his birthday by going fastest for in FP1.
The six-time champion, who was back on top of the podium last time out in Spain after Verstappen triumphed at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, feels Mercedes needed to put in some hard work ahead of qualifying.
"It's very close out there between us. I think the Red Bulls are just a little bit quicker at the moment. But even Racing Point, I think it is right with us. And then also Daniel Ricardo is very close," said Hamilton.
"So that makes it exciting. We've got some work to do, that's for sure, to try and dial in the car a bit more. But it doesn't feel bad at all.
"As I anticipated coming to this weekend, we're only into the seventh race, the field is going to get closer and closer as the whole of F1 develops. It's already showing this weekend as we seem to be so close with everyone.
"And we've got to understand why - whether they've taken a step or we've taken a step back? Or is it just the track layout or downforce level? Who knows? We'll work on that. But I'm excited for an interesting race, that is for sure."
Verstappen expects Mercedes to carry out some fine tuning and lead the way in qualifying at the iconic track on Saturday.
"I personally think they 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."
On the chances of Racing Point and Renault, he added: "I think they will be very close so it will be tricky with them in qualifying, but then in the race it should be alright."