- April 12, 1942
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He never was a Formula 1 champion, but Carlos Reutemann is still regarded as one the Formula 1 greatest drivers and second best ever Argentinian F1 racer after inviolable Juan Manuel Fangio.
He recorded 146 starts in the Formula One World Championship between 1972 and 1982, scoring 45 podiums, including twelve wins. His career-best season was 1981 when he finished second in the championship, just one point behind Nelson Piquet.
In his free time, Reutemann recorded two starts in the Argentinean round of the World Rally Championship, scoring podiums in both events. He was third at 1980 Rally Argentina in a Fiat 131 Abarth and then again third at 1985 Rally Argentina in a Peugeot 205 T16.
Carlos Alberto Reutemann, also known as Lole, was born in April 1942 in Santa Fe, Argentina. His origin is interesting as his grandfather was Swiss-German, the father was an Argentinian while the mother was of an Italian origin.
The start of his racing career was similar to the start of many other drivers. In 1965, he was racing in a Fiat saloon car and then in Formula 2 and touring cars in Argentina.
Late departure to Europe
Lole was experienced enough when he moved to Europe in 1970 to drive a Brabham in European Formula 2 championship. Competing against some well-known names like Jochen Rindt and Ronnie Peterson, Reutemann achieved some good results.
He was already 30-year-old when made Formula 1 debut in 1972. Brabham F1 team, led by Bernie Ecclestone, signed the Argentian to drive alongside two-time World champion Graham Hill. The debut was perfect as Carlos, in front of his fans in Argentina, clinched pole position. Before him, only Mario Andretti managed to win pole position on his debut, and later only Jacques Villeneuve did it again. But, at the end of the race Reutemann was seventh what was his best result that year, excluding the victory at the non-championship race in Brazil.
Ups and downs with Brabham
Carlos stayed with Brabham team for 1973 campaign, this time with the Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi as his teammate. The start of the season didn’t go well as Lole was forced to retire from four of six races, but until the end of the season, he has won podium finishes in France and in the United States and scored points in four more Grand Prix races to finish seventh overall.
Better results with an improved Brabham
With an improved Brabham BT44, Reutemann and the team did better in 1974. The Argentinian scored his maiden F1 victory in South Africa and later won another two races in Austria and in the United States. But, he was only sixth in the Drivers’ championship after inconsistent performances and six retirements that year.
The following season was much better for Reutemann even after he has won only one Grand Prix, in Germany. But, the car was more reliable than the previous one and Carlos finished at the podium after five races scoring a total of 37 points to finish third overall, behind champion Niki Lauda and Emerson Fittipaldi.
Move to Ferrari
It looked like the Brabham team had a solid foundation for the 1976 campaign, but that year was a nightmare for Reutemann. Switch to an Alfa Romeo’s flat V12 engine proved to be a mistake. Lole retired from nine of 12 races and asked to be released from Brabham as he got a call from Ferrari to replace injured Niki Lauda. He has signed a contract with Scuderia but appeared in only one race after Lauda’s recovery was unexpectedly fast.
Carlos Reutemann stayed with Ferrari for another two years, replacing Clay Regazzoni and partnering Lauda. In 1977. the Argentinian did a good job taking points on regular basis, including victory in Brazil and another five podium finishes. He was fourth in the Drivers’ championship that year but in 1978, he did even better. Carlos became a senior driver in the team and won four races. He looked like a title contender but again had to settle for third, behind Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson.
Year in Lotus was a mishit
After Peterson’s death, Reutemann replaced the Swede in the ambitious Lotus team for the 1979 Formula 1 season. The first half of the season was relatively good for Lole but in the second half of the season, things were disastrous as he retired from five of the last six races, finishing seventh in the Drivers’ championship. Interestingly, Formula 1 champion that year became Jody Scheckter who replaced Reutemann in Ferrari.
Video - Carlos Reutemann's first race with Lotus
Carlos Reutemann missed the title with Williams
After a somewhat disappointing year spent in the Lotus team, Reutemann switched to Williams and had two very good seasons with them. In 1980, the Argentinian scored eight podium finishes including a victory at Monaco Grand Prix. At the end of the season, Carlos was third overall, behind his teammate Alan Jones and Nelson Piquet, but Reutemann had great contribution in Williams’ effort to win their first F1 Constructors’ championship title that year.
The following year was even better for Lole as he clinched podium finishes in the five opening races, with wins in Brazil and Belgium. He was rightfully considered as a title contender after an excellent start and did well throughout the whole season. Before the last race of the campaign, in Las Vegas, Reutemann was on the top of the championship, one point ahead of Nelson Piquet. Sadly, Lole’s car suffered gearbox problem early in the race and he finished eighth, losing the title to Piquet by a single point.
Carlos Reutemann stayed with Williams for 1982 season but left the team after the second race in Brazil due to political tensions between Argentina and the United Kingdom caused after Falklands War. In the same time, Reutemann retired from racing and decided to switch his focus to politics.
Successful career in politics
As a politician, Reutemann had considerable success. As a member of Justicialist Party, he has been elected governor of the Santa Fe province two times (1991-1995 and 1999-2003). His influence in politics grew up through the years and soon he became one of the leading politicians in Argentina. Carlos Reutemann was a member of the Argentinian Senate in the three mandates.
Another interesting fact about Reutemann’s racing career is that he also had experience in rally racing. In 1980, he was offered a seat in Fiat 131 for Rally Argentina and he did surprisingly well, finishing third. Five years later, he has competed again and finished third , this time behind the wheel of Peugeot 205 T16.