Carlos Reutemann had the talent to become world champion, but his chance to take the title, which came in 1981, resulted in a strangely uninspired race in the final in Las Vegas, which left the title in the hands of Nelson Piquet. It was one of the great mysteries of that era, but it was Reutemann, a class action, a great talent – but a bit of a mystery.
He won 12 Grand Prix out of the 146 he challenged between 1972 and 1982. He had been driving in Europe since 1970, when Automovil Club Argentino paid for him to drive in the F2 team, and he fought Ronnie Peterson for the European title in 1971. .
In 1972, taken over by Bernie Ecclestone for F1, he qualified his Brabham at pole position for his first GP, to the delight of his home crowd in Buenos Aires, and he seemed ready for a great future. Disappointingly, he never really did it. With Brabham, he was good, but the cars were never quite good enough. When Niki Lauda crashed in 1976, he was taken over by Ferrari as an Austrian replacement, but Niki had goals from him. In 1978, he could have won the title, but Team Lotus was dominant thanks to the Earth effect. With the brilliant Gilles Villeneuve as teammate, Reutemann ran to replace the late Ronnie Peterson in Lotus, but the car was not in pace in 1979 when Ferrari won the title with Jody Scheckter, his replacement. In 1980, Reutemann accepted an offer to join Williams with Alan Jones. It was not a happy relationship, mainly because Carlos did not obey team orders in Brazil, and the two drivers spent the rest of the season scrapping against each other, allowing Nelson Piquet to win the title. The feud affected his motivation and he doubted his return in 1982. Eventually he decided to continue, but began in early 1982 to stop just before the outbreak of the Falklands War, making it impossible for him to continue with the team as Britain and Argentina went to war.
It was ironic that Keke Rosberg won the title that year with Williams with only one win in the race.
After retiring from the sport, Reutemann used his fame in Argentina to enter politics and became one of the leading politicians in the country as governor of Sante Fe province and later as senator.
Beautiful, talented and intelligent, Reutemann had it all, but it never quite went.