Formula One: There's just as much pressure on Hamilton as there is on Rosberg

Spidergate, it ain't. But if you saw Nico Rosberg's recent #spiderattack tweet, with the video clip of a fist-sized Huntsman spider on his Mercedes sedan - note, not his race car - moments before a visit to a Melbourne beach, just chill, people. 

There are two points to consider.

One: Huntsmen are ugly, lethal-looking Australian spiders, but they're not poisonous, even though their appearance on car windscreens and dashboards has caused several accidents and insurance claims over the years.

And two: Despite what the conspiracy theorists might think, here is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Lewis Hamilton planted the spider there. 

Ah, yes, the two Mercedes drivers have had their fair share of public spats. There was Capgate, when the German flung his podium cap at his team-mate after last year's US Grand Prix. And there was Chicanegate, when Rosberg inexplicably missed the first chicane of the Italian Grand Prix in September 2014. And, lest we forget, there was Nudgegate, the infamous collision between the fractious team-mates at the Belgian Grand Prix two years ago. 

But here's the deal, going in to the Australian Grand Prix tomorrow, with the two Mercedes drivers on the front of the grid, just ahead of the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.

There is probably just as much pressure on Hamilton as there is on Rosberg. The German, whose Mercedes contract expires this year, won the last three races last year, albeit after Hamilton had sealed his third world title, but has considerable momentum after those wins and his form in Barcelona pre-season testing.

 Carry this momentum to the starting grid tomorrow and there's a new twist on Mercedes' dominance. Team management have already said there will be no race orders this year, leaving their drivers to race in whatever manner they see fit. A bullish Rosberg taking an early-season points lead over the reigning world champion would be good for Mercedes.

 But as retired Red Bull F1 driver Mark Webber knows, world titles don't simply come to those who deserve them. The Australian might be the reigning World Endurance Championship (WEC) world champion, but he would remember vividly the disappointment of heading into the last F1 race of 2010 as a title contender, only to lose the crown to his team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who then built his own legacy of four straight titles.

Looking forward, is Rosberg world champion material? Of course. He has the skill, the technical nous, the awareness and, if his own estimation is entirely accurate, a better car this year than last. Apart from proving to Mercedes that he deserves a new contract - can there possibly be any doubt on this score? - he also has a family legacy to live up to.

 His father Keke was a one-time world champion, a straight talker who once semi-blasphemously referred to a recalcitrant race vehicle as a "pig of a car" and even described himself as "a cocky b*****d - and I know it". He had actually seemed destined for the scrap heap when the funds dried up at his team, Fittipaldi, until an unexpected lucky break favoured him.

 When the 1980 world champion, Alan Jones - he of the lucky red underpants and the man who once drove a car sponsored by condom manufacturer Durex - retired unexpectedly at the end of the 1981 season, Rosberg was really the only viable alternative in the paddock and grabbed the Williams drive when it was offered to him.

 In that breakthrough year, 1982, Rosberg the elder won only one race, the French Grand Prix, but in a season when almost half-a-dozen drivers won grands prix, he still accumulated enough podium finishes and sufficient points - 44 - to take the world title. Through his career, he had five race victories, 17 podium finishes and took five pole positions.

 In that respect, while Rosberg the younger has not yet won a world title, he has more than eclipsed the other aspects of his father's F1 legacy. Last year alone, he won more races - six; in Spain, Monaco, Austria, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi - than his father did in his entire career. Furthermore, the son has won 14 races in all, has had 41 podium finishes and taken pole 22 times, while finishing second to Hamilton in the world championship twice in a row, in 2014 and again last year.

 Naturally, while most of the attention in Melbourne from Friday until Sunday will be on the Mercedes drivers, there is something else to consider about the grid at Albert Park. While there are two rookie drivers, Rio Haryanto and Pascal Wehrlein, for Manor, and the long-awaited return of an American-led team, Haas, there is a lot of experience up the pointy end.

 No fewer than five world champions will race this weekend, having won the last 11 world championships between them. McLaren's Fernando Alonso won two successive crowns in 2005 and 2006, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen won in 2007 and his team-mate Sebastian Vettel took four in a row from 2010-13, Jenson Button of McLaren won his only title in 2009, while Hamilton has three (2008, 2014 and last year).

And call it mind games or a reality check, but last month, Mercedes actually said they expect Ferrari to push them hard this season. The team's powertrain executive, Andy Cowell, said: "If we look at what Ferrari have done over the last 12 months, it's remarkable. Nobody here is assuming we are going to win. Everybody here is assuming we're going to get beaten by Ferrari, and Honda are a big threat."

Vettel, no stranger to pressure, gave an interviewer from the F1 website an interesting answer about what will unfold in Melbourne. When asked if there will be wheel-to-wheel racing, he replied: "In an ideal world not wheel-to-wheel but in front!"

So it might be the right time to forget about arachnids on beach-bound cars and see whether one of the five world champions will win in Australia, following the new shootout-style practice sessions, or whether Rosberg the younger can finally assert himself and turn into a superhero like Spider-Man, spinning his own version of a world wide web.

dmcmahon@sph.com.sg