Max Verstappen set the pace in Friday's second practice session at Spa, but the Red Bull charger isn't expecting to be in the running for pole on Saturday.
Verstappen's run on the soft tyres in FP2 put him at the top of the time screen and 0.096s clear of the nearest Mercedes, the W11 of Lewis Hamilton.
The Dutchman was overall pleased with his day of work but expected his Black Arrow rivals to move back to the front in qualifying after fine-tuning their balance.
"The car seems to be handling well, it is of course early days but from our side it was a positive Friday and overall I’m pretty happy," Verstappen said.
"A racing car is never perfect and you always try to find things on the car and with the tyre prep that you can improve, so we will be looking at that tonight.
"Personally, I think Mercedes are still struggling a bit with the balance and I expect them to be stronger tomorrow.
"You can see already that they are very competitive on the long runs and I don’t think I will be fighting them for pole because we can’t really follow when they turn it up in qualifying."
With a little more work, Verstappen isn't dismissing another proper run at Mercedes' dominance on Sunday around Spa's fast sweeps, especially in the event of a wet race.
"If we can at least be a bit closer that would be good ahead of the race," added the Dutchman.
"It was important to get some decent dry running today, even if the conditions change over the weekend, so we can find a good baseline.
"It’s never easy around Spa to find the perfect downforce level and you can see everyone trying different things, but I think we are in a reasonable place and we will find out tomorrow exactly where that puts us."
Alex Albon was P4 and 0.390s behind his teammate in FP2, but the British-Thai racer hailed a promising session.
"It’s been a promising day and I felt good with the car from the very first lap. It felt strong and the car is gelling better," Albon said.
"It’s hard to say what everyone else is doing as it’s practice and people are running different engine modes and fuel but you can see some people are targeting straight line speed more than others so let’s see how tomorrow plays out.
"The times are surprisingly close and so we’ll continue to fine tune the car and dial out what we can but it will be tight tomorrow."