Argentine driver Carlos Reutemann, who raced in 146 Grands Prix throughout a career that saw him drive for the best teams in Formula 1, has passed away at age 79. Reutemann died today, July 7, after battling what press reports said was internal bleeding.
“Dad left in peace and dignity after fighting like a champion with a strong and noble heart that accompanied him to the end,” said his daughter Cora. “I am proud and blessed for the father I had. I know that he will accompany me every day of my life until we meet again.”
Reutemann drove in F1 for 11 years, from 1972 to 1982. He got his start when then-Brabham boss Bernie Eccelstone brought him in as teammate to Graham Hill. He would drive for Ferrari, Lotus, and Williams over a stellar career that would see him race against some of the best teams and drivers in F1.
It was while at Williams in 1981 that he came closest to winning a championship, beaten by Nelson Piquet by a single point in the final race of the season on the parking lot course of the Caesars Palace Grand Prix in Las Vegas. The loss was all the harder to swallow because Reutemann had outqualified the field handily, driving his Williams Ford to a 1:17.821, the only driver to get under 1:18 around the unusual E-shaped, counterclockwise temporary circuit.
All Reutemann had to do was finish ahead of Piquet in the race to take the title, and Piquet seemed to be suffering from heat exhaustion both before and during the race. But persistent oversteer and the loss of fourth gear in Reutemann’s car gave Piquet a chance to pass the nearly champ, and Piquet finished fifth to Reutemann’s eighth. That finish meant Piquet had one point more than Reutemann at the end of the year, giving Piquet the title.
Reutemann also came close to a title in 1978 driving for Ferrari, where he scored four wins over the course of the season but was ultimately beaten by the seemingly unbeatable ground effects Lotus 78s of Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson.
In his career he finished third overall three times, each time for a different team: Brabham in 1975, Ferrari in 1978, and Williams in 1980.
Altogether, Reutemann won 12 Grands Prix in his career, along with six poles. He also garnered three podiums in the World Rally Championship in Argentina.
After his driving career was over, he went into politics in his native Argentina, where he served as both a governor and a member of the Argentine senate. He was still a senator at the time of his death.
“Dear Daddy, You left In peace, surrounded by love,” said his other daughter, Mariana. “Proud daughter who will never let go of your hand. I Love You and having fun with Gilles, Ronnie, Clay, Ayrton, and so many more.”
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