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.
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.
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.