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Carlos Reutemann: Former Formula 1 driver dies at 79

Reutemann drove for Brabham, Ferrari, Lotus and Williams.

Carlos Reutemann, a leading Formula 1 driver in the 1970s and 1980s and later a senior politician in Argentina for three decades, has died at the age of 79.

As a race car driver he won 12 Grand Prix, came close to the world championship with Williams in 1981.

He was known for his enormous talent but enigmatic character.

After a sudden retirement in 1982, Reutemann entered politics and had two terms as governor of his native Santa Fe province.

He was a senator for the Justice Party from 2003 until his death.

Reutemann became prominent as a racing driver and entered Formula 1 in 1972 at the relatively late age of 29 and remained among the top names in the sport throughout his decade of commitment.

He ran 146 races for the Brabham, Lotus, Ferrari and Williams teams and was considered one of his fastest drivers.

He added six pole positions and a total of 45 podium finishes to his 12 wins. He finished second in the 1981 championship and third in 1975 with Brabham, 1978 for Ferrari and 1980 for Williams.

Carlos Reutemann
The FIA ​​tweeted: “He was a big part of our sport for many years and was a fighter to the end. He will be greatly missed”.

Reutemann, whose film star appearance helped him become one of the most charismatic figures of his era, was as well known for his mysterious personality as for his skills behind the wheel.

He could be brilliant and untouchable one day and anonymous the next, a reputation that followed him throughout his career and which was never more obvious than in the final race of the 1981 season.

Reutemann, who drove for Williams, had been involved in a season-long battle with Brazilian Brabham driver Nelson Piquet.

They went to the final race in Las Vegas with Reutemann leading by one point and only needing to beat Piquet to win the title.

But after qualifying for pole position, Reutemann dropped in the race, down to fourth at the first corner and finished eighth, cut by his teammate Alan Jones, who won.

Piquet had been there to take. Poorly affected by the heat and suffering from exhaustion, the Brazilian’s head hung around the cockpit, but he managed to bring Brabham home fifth to achieve the title.

Carlos Reutemann
Reutemann drove for Ferrari at the Spanish Grand Prix in 1978.

Reutemann’s performance that day remains unclear in mystery – he complained about problems with the gearbox, but after the race Williams could not find anything wrong with the car.

The team’s co-founder and technical director Patrick Head told BBC Sport: “The chief mechanic went and drove the car back in and said he could not feel anything wrong with it. And when we took it apart, there was not a single damaged (equipment) dog “Everything was in immaculate condition. So it was very difficult to understand, honestly.”

Reutemann returned to Argentina after the end of the season and had to be persuaded by team owner Frank Williams to return in 1982 along with a new teammate, Keke Rosberg, who went on to become world champion that year.

But Reutemann ran only two races before announcing his retirement.

Head believes that the looming war between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands, combined with his desire to leave motorsport, was what persuaded him to leave.

Head remembers him as “an absolute gent – I would not say sophisticated but quite well-educated person to a race car driver.

“Carlos was incredibly fast if he wanted to be. But if his psychology was not with it, he would not be like that, so he was very difficult … he was not like your normal driver; he was a very unusual person.

“He disappeared after Las Vegas, and Frank talked to him a couple of times down in Argentina. And then the war happened in early 1982.

“Frank persuaded Carlos to come back and do a few races and I think Carlos thought Keke was a little on the fast side. I don’t think he was afraid of him, I think he just thought , that he should work a little hard.

“I think he had fallen out of love with it and the war gave him a … I think it would have been quite difficult with his country and England at war when he was driving for an English team “so I can understand him while the war was going on by not driving. But I also think having a spaniel clicking on the heels was another persuasive or something.”

A step into politics

Carlos Reutemann
In 2003, Reutemann was offered the chance to run for the Argentine presidency

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 and served for a period of four years and after a break because the province’s constitution does not allow re-election, ran again four years later and served from 1999-2003.

Reutemann’s profile grew in Argentina, and he was expected to run for the presidency for many years, but declined several times despite strong pressure to do so.

In 2017, he was diagnosed with liver cancer and his health had declined in recent weeks.

Died July 7, his daughter Cora said he “left in peace and dignity after fighting as a champion with a strong and noble heart that followed him to the end”.

F1 said in a statement: “We are all deeply saddened to hear that Carlos Reutemann is dead. He was a big part of our sport for many years and was a fighter to the end. He will be greatly missed.”

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