Lewis Hamilton’s blonde hair brings back memories of when Villeneuve, Vettel also did so


It’s come to this in the 2015 Formula 1 season: A driver’s hair color is now a story.

The summer of Lewis Hamilton centered on his vacation in Barbados, and his frequent updates with dog Roscoe he posted on Instagram.

Back at his day job after the summer break, he’s now returned to form with a dominant victory in the Belgian Grand Prix back aboard the Mercedes W06.

Meanwhile, his arrival at Monza this weekend for the Italian Grand Prix has featured a surprise – a different hair color.

Hamilton’s gone with the dyed, bleach blonde look, which surprisingly isn’t the first time a driver’s called an audible on their hair color midseason.

Usually though, it’s come when the championship is in doubt.

source: Getty Images
Villeneuve (center) flanked by Arrows’ Damon Hill and Sauber’s Johnny Herbert in 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix. Photo: Getty Images

In 1997, Jacques Villeneuve was engaged in a yearlong scrap with Michael Schumacher. An unforced error at his home race in Montreal, the Canadian Grand Prix, saw him lose control of his Williams-Renault over the final chicane and crash out into the Wall of Champions.

Schumacher took the win that day, and took the points lead in the process, 37-30, over Villeneuve.

Two weeks later at Magny-Cours, Villeneuve had gone blonde. When the Williams had to put question marks on the sidepods and wings of the car to replace the Rothmans logo per French tobacco restrictions, they may as well have been the subtext of asking their lead driver what on earth he was doing.

But, despite a fourth place finish in the French Grand Prix where Schumacher won again, Villeneuve then got on a roll from that point. He won four of the next seven Grands Prix to regain the championship lead heading into the final three races, and won his first and ultimately only World Championship following Schumacher’s desperate lunge on him at the Dry Sac corner at the season finale at Jerez.

Flash forward to 2013, just two years ago. Hamilton – incidentally – had just won his first race with Mercedes at the last race before the summer break and while Vettel was leading the championship by 38 points over Kimi Raikkonen, he hadn’t had it all his way in the first half of the season with four wins in the first 10 races.

source: Getty Images
Vettel went blonde at Belgium, and never looked back. Photo: Getty Images

The hair color changed, and so too did the results for the German. From the Belgian Grand Prix where Vettel first appeared in his new golden locks, he went on a tear for the final nine races of the season, winning all nine en route to his fourth straight World Championship.

Sure, the fact Pirelli had reverted back to a previous tire that better suited the Red Bull chassis played a major part, but in hindsight, it’s funny to see how Vettel went nine-for-nine after the hair color change.

We flash forward to this weekend, with Hamilton boasting a 28-point lead over teammate Nico Rosberg and with that gap not immediately in doubt.

Via Sky Sports, Hamilton said the change was made “Because I can!” and adding that he is in an “experimental phase” in his life.

If his form follows the past two drivers to go blonde, Hamilton should be well on his way to his third World Championship.

Or at the very least, the champion has provided us a good opportunity to go back down memory lane.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.