Carlos Reutemann, one of Formula 1’s main drivers in the 1970s and 1980s and later a senior politician in Argentina for three decades, has died at the age of 79.
As a racing driver, he won 12 Grands Prix, came close to the world championship with Williams in 1981.
He was known for his immense talent but his enigmatic character.
After abruptly retiring in 1982, Reutemann entered politics and served two terms as governor of his home province of Santa Fe.
He was a senator for the Justice Party from 2003 until his death.
Reutemann rose to prominence as a racing driver, entering Formula 1 in 1972 at the relatively late age of 29 and remaining among the biggest names in the sport throughout his decade of involvement.
He drove 146 races for the Brabham, Lotus, Ferrari and Williams teams and was considered one of the fastest drivers of his time.
He added six pole positions and a total of 45 podiums to his 12 wins. He finished second in the 1981 championship and third in 1975 with Brabham, 1978 for Ferrari and 1980 for Williams.
Reutemann, whose movie star allure helped him become one of the most charismatic figures of his time, was known as much for his mysterious personality as he was for his driving skills.
He could be brilliant and untouchable one day and anonymous the next, a reputation that followed him throughout his career and was never more evident than in the last race of the 1981 season.
Reutemann, driving Williams, was engaged in a one-season battle with Brazilian driver Brabham Nelson Piquet.
They went to the final race in Las Vegas with Reutemann leading by one point and only needing to beat Piquet to claim the title.
But after qualifying on pole position, Reutemann collapsed in the race, slipping back to fourth in the first corner and eighth, passed by teammate Alan Jones, who won.
Piquet had been there for the taking. Severely affected by the heat and suffering from exhaustion, the Brazilian’s head lounged in the cockpit, but he managed to bring the Brabham back to fifth place to clinch the title.
Reutemann’s performance that day remains clouded – he complained about a gearbox issue, but after the race Williams found no issues with the car.
Team co-founder and technical director Patrick Head told BBC Sport: “The chief mechanic went to bring the car back and said he didn’t feel anything wrong. And when we took it apart , there was no damage (equipment) to the dog, everything was in immaculate condition, so it was very difficult to understand, quite frankly. “
Reutemann returned to Argentina after the end of the season and had to be persuaded by team owner Frank Williams to return in 1982 alongside new teammate Keke Rosberg, who became world champion that year. .
But Reutemann only competed in two races before announcing his retirement.
Head believes the looming war between Britain and Argentina in the Falkland Islands, combined with his desire to leave motorsport behind, persuaded him to leave.
Head remembers him as “an absolute gentleman – I wouldn’t say sophisticated, but a person educated enough for a racing driver.
“Carlos was incredibly fast, if he wanted to. But if his psychology wasn’t there, he wouldn’t be like that, so it was a really tough… he wasn’t like your normal driver; it was a very unusual person.
“He disappeared after Las Vegas and Frank spoke to him several times in Argentina. And then the war started in early 1982.
“Frank persuaded Carlos to come back and do some shopping and I think Carlos thought Keke was a bit quick. I don’t think he was scared of him, I think he just thought he was going to have to work a bit. hard.
“I think he fell in love with it and the war gave him a… I think it would have been quite difficult with his country and England at war, driving for an English team, so I can understand that during the war. not to drive. But I also think having a spaniel slamming his heels was a second way to persuade or something. “
Entry into politics
After leaving motorsport, Reutemann returned to his farm in Argentina and his popularity led the “Justicialista” party to persuade him to run for governor.
He won in 1991, serving a four-year term, and after a hiatus because the province’s constitution does not allow re-election, ran again four years later and served from 1999 to 2003 .
Reutemann’s profile rose in Argentina and he was expected for many years to run for president, but declined on several occasions, despite considerable pressure to do so.
In 2017, she was diagnosed with liver cancer and her health had deteriorated in recent weeks.
He died on July 7, his daughter Cora claiming that he “left in peace and dignity after fighting like a champion with a strong and noble heart that accompanied him to the end”.
F1 said in a statement: “We are all deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Carlos Reutemann. He has been a big part of our sport for many years and has been a fighter until the end. He will be missed. a lot.”