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.
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.