Carlos Reutemann

Being hailed as “the new Fangio” can only heap pressure onto any aspiring Argentinian and local expectations were uncontained every time Carlos Reutemann raced in his homeland. A star for a decade, “Lole” had the 1981 world title in his grasp and how he let it slip is still a matter of some mystery.

Early international career

With a grounding in Argentinean touring cars and single-seaters, he arrived in Formula 2 in 1970 with an Automóvil Club Argentino Brabham BT30-Ford. He immediately made headlines by crashing into the category’s superstar Jochen Rindt in his first race.

Third in the non-championship 1971 Argentine GP with Jo Bonnier’s old McLaren M7A-Ford, Reutemann showed much promise in his second F2 season that year. Victory proved elusive with second at Albi his best result and he finished runner-up in the points behind Ronnie Peterson.

From the archive

Formula 1 with Brabham

Reutemann made a sensational Grand Prix debut in front of his adoring Buenos Aires public in 1972 – qualifying his works Brabham BT34-Ford on pole position for his first race (one of only four men to do so). He followed that up with victory in the non-championship Brazilian GP at Interlagos but his season was temporarily halted by a broken left ankle sustained during practice for Thruxton’s F2 race at Easter.

Twice third during the 1973 Formula 1 season, he also finished second for Ferrari’s sports car team at Vallelunga and Monza. That year also included his only Le Mans 24 Hours start when Reutemann and Tim Schenken retired a Ferrari 312PB.

Breakthrough victories

The 1974 season began with heartbreak but proved to be his breakthrough F1 campaign. He was just two laps from victory at an emotionally charged Buenos Aires when he ran out of fuel in the Argentine GP. However, he took an early lead at Kyalami and controlled the race thereafter to score a maiden GP victory by 34 seconds. Another two wins followed but inconsistency restricted his championship challenge and Reutemann was sixth in the final points.

In search of the title with Ferrari and Lotus

Third in 1975 with a dominant win on the old Nürburgring the highlight, he was increasingly frustrated while developing Brabham’s unreliable new Alfa Romeo engines in 1976 (he only scored points when fourth in Spain). So Reutemann signed to replace the injured Niki Lauda at Ferrari mid-way through the season. However, the Austrian’s remarkably quick recovery meant Reutemann only raced a third car at the Italian GP.

He remained with the Italian team for a full season in 1977 and third in Argentina and victory in Brazil (the first for Michelin tyres) gave Reutemann an early championship lead. However, Lauda gradually asserted himself and overshadowed his team-mate as he won his second world title. With Lauda leaving to join Brabham, Reutemann was undisputed Ferrari team leader in 1978 and he won four times but the championship was dominated by Lotus with Reutemann finishing third overall.

Eager for championship success of his own, he switched to Lotus for 1979. Second in the Argentine GP, it was an unhappy and increasingly uncompetitive year made all the more painful by his Ferrari replacement Jody Scheckter winning the world championship for the Scuderia.

So close with Williams

On the move again after a single season, Reutemann joined Williams whose new FW07 ground effect car had ended 1979 as the class of the field. Victory in the 1980 Monaco GP and a string of podium finishes helped Williams to the constructors’ crown but it was team-mate Alan Jones who won the title.

From the archive

Reutemann started 1981 in determined mood – tired of partnering successive world champions, he wanted F1’s ultimate prize for himself. He disobeyed team orders to beat Jones in Brazil and found a consistency that had been previously lacking. His second win that year was tinged with tragedy for Osella mechanic Giovanni Amadeo had died in practice for the Belgian GP after walking in front of Reutemann’s car in the pitlane.

Reutemann led the championship all season and qualified on pole position for the title decider in Las Vegas. Young Brabham star Nelson Piquet was a point behind but the 1981 World Championship was Reutemann’s to lose. However, a poor start was followed by a lacklustre, seemingly disinterested race performance hampered by gearbox and handling problems. Piquet passed him on lap 17 to snatch his first title while Reutemann struggled home in an uncompetitive eighth position.

Retirement and subsequent life

It was a crushing disappointment for Reutemann. He began 1982 with Williams but suddenly announced his immediate retirement after just two GPs. That the team ended the year celebrating Keke Rosberg’s world championship success just emphasised how Reutemann was always in the right car at the wrong time.

He has since turned his attention to politics – becoming Governor General of his home province and more recently elected to the Argentinian Senate. The winner of 12 GPs, he was renowned as a moody customer who was awesome on his day. However, the world championship and victory in his home race always proved just out of reach.

Non Championship Races