For the Argentines it has always been Lole. In Italy it has been defined the Sad Gaucho. Enzo Ferrari, however, was the most creative to define the personality of Carlos Reutemann, thoughtful Argentine with a noteworthy Formula 1 career, but without a crown. “Athletic, highly skilled driver, conditioned by a tormented and tormenting temperament. Able to solve difficult situations, also making up for occasional mechanical deficiencies, but labile to waste, due to congenital emotionality, results that can be acquired at the start“, Wrote the founder of the Maranello company.
Born in Santa Fe, Reutemann made his Formula 1 debut at his home Grand Prix in Argentina in 1972. At the wheel of a Brabham BT34 he immediately obtained pole position, finishing the following race in seventh place. Evidence enough to get noticed. Everyone wondered at the time if the long-awaited heir of Juan Manuel Fangio could finally arrive with Reutemann: Argentina was longing for a new champion, able to crown the country’s great passion for motoring.
He raced with Brabham until 1976, impressing for his consistency of performance in the three seasons between 1973 and 1975. He obtained his first victory at the 1974 South African Grand Prix, to which he then added successes in Austria and the United States. In 1975 he won the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, giving away a minute and a half to the competition, proving once again its value. However, in the following year, a crisis of competitiveness and reliability relegated him to results of little depth. At the Italian Grand Prix, at the same time as Niki Lauda’s return with his wounds still open after the accident on the Nordschleife, Reutemann showed up wearing a Ferrari suit: the Argentine had accepted the offer to ‘replace’ the Austrian, but he actually found himself being his teammate.
In 1977 Reutemann stayed with Ferrari, immediately winning in Brazil. During the rest of the season Lauda regained the upper hand, winning the world championship, while the Argentine obtained a good series of placings but without too much enthusiasm. Of the time we recall some images with Reutemann apparently resigned, while Mauro Forghieri tries to whip him in the morale. The first opportunity to prove to be a first-rate guide came in 1978, with Lauda out of Maranello. Alongside Reutemann, Ferrari lined up the semi-unknown Canadian Gilles Villeneuve, already tried at the end of 1977 at the cost of enriching the junkyard. Unlike Reutemann, who was more thoughtful, Villeneuve, however, knew how to make himself loved.
Lole won four Grands Prix, but it wasn’t enough to counteract the splendid form state of the ground-effect Lotus. Overall it was probably the best season for him, but lived badly due to the impossibility on certain tracks to oppose the supremacy imposed by Mario Andretti. The Argentine finished third in the world championship: the expression “Sad Gaucho”, As his detractors called him, for his thoughtful gaze and in search of the recipe to get to the title. Unlike Fangio, who knew how to choose the winning car in order to stay on top, Reutemann changed teams at the wrong time: he closed the door to Ferrari and went to Lotus, convinced that he could inherit a winning car.
1979 with Colin Chapman proved problematic: the car was no longer so competitive, Ferrari had found the technical square and the other teams had also solved their problems. Reutemann started the championship discreetly with several podium finishes, but towards the end of the season several avoidable accidents and mistakes shattered the relationship with the whole Lotus team. The Argentine decided to change the air again, accepting Frank Williams’ offer to form a duo with an international spirit together with Australian Alan Jones.
The team was the right one, but not the driver: Reutemann ran a good season, also winning in Monte Carlo, but it was Jones himself who won the title thanks to several triumphs. The Argentine got a lot of placings, but he lacked the flash. Thus it was that Lole, aware of a career nearing completion, sided with the 1981 season eager to take the missing scepter. Also at Williams, he rebelled against the unofficial status of second driver and, in Brazil, overtook his teammate Alan Jones, ignoring the orders from the pits and going to win. This destabilized the team, with the two drivers becoming enemies and separated at home. Reutemann, thanks to another victory in Belgium and numerous placings, found himself at the head of the world championship, fighting with the young Brazilian Nelson Piquet (Brabham).
In the last few races, however, disaster was consummated. With Jones absolutely unwilling to help him, Reutemann’s lead remained to a point before the final race a Las Vegas. During practice Carlos set the best time and started from pole, but on Sunday the ghosts arrived. Carlos was not calm: in the morning, during the warm up, he complained about something indefinite that was wrong with his car. The mechanics checked the car, but nothing significant turned out. At the start, Reutemann was mocked by Jones and slowly retreated to ninth position. A fifth place was enough for Piquet to win the title and he succeeded, by a whisker. Carlos lost the championship by one point.
Renato D’Ulisse, in ‘Ferrari Opera Omnia’, described Carlos in this way: “It was half amusing and half disconcerting to watch this man with an athletic physique and all too perfect features, a handsome dark romance novel if you will, wandering around the pit lane with his camel-like pace and frowning expression, looking at his own and others’ cars. , as if to try to discover the secrets that were difficult and frightening to him. You could ask him anything, a judgment, a forecast, his expectations and he perennially shook his head and perpetually replied with the phrase now engraved in the Formula 1 tombstones: ‘Es dura, es muy dura’. Or he pursed his lips, raised his eyes to the sky with a sad smile and remained silent as a fish“.