Lewis Hamilton is steeling himself for a Red Bull assault during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix without Mercedes 'wingman' Valtteri Bottas for support.
On a rare occasion in the current turbo-hybrid era, there will not be two Mercedes cars on the front two rows of the grid at least, with Bottas starting a lowly eighth following a poor qualifying performance at Imola from the Finn.
It means Red Bull has a tactical advantage as Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen line up directly behind Hamilton after the seven-time champion claimed the 99th pole of his Formula 1 career.
Ordinarily, Mercedes has held the ace up its sleeve in having two Mercedes against one of a rival car, typically Red Bull.
On this occasion, faced with the reverse dilemma, a reflective Hamilton said: "It’s much different from past experiences.
"Very rarely have I seen… I can’t remember the last time I saw the Red Bulls so close.
"If we’re able to get off in order then they obviously have a bit of a better set of cards in terms of strategy but that doesn’t mean we can’t pull out something unique and do something different.
"I’m not really sure what happened with Valtteri. It’s very hard to overtake here so obviously we probably won’t have the support of him early on.
"Nevertheless maybe he will make it through but otherwise we’ve just got to focus on our job and try and do absolutely everything and more to keep these lads behind."
Hamilton's lap in qualifying now leaves him one away from chalking up the magical 100, although the 36-year-old has revealed the 99th was "a real surprise" to all inside Mercedes as Red Bull was expected to claim the top spot on the grid.
"The team definitely did not… anyone in the team, expected to be on pole," added Hamilton.
"Of course, that’s what I was gunning for but it really was the tidiest lap that I could put together and a little bit more.
"Whether or not it was a Singapore lap or not, it was a different vibe, but it definitely felt good."