Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler BlackJack’sBriefs
Such a list is not easy to compile, and it is even harder to be objective.
The way I reduced 830 F1 drivers to 20 is detailed in Part I. I wanted twenty top drivers (top No.2’s who might have been a team leader.) who had proved their ability to win – not drivers who showed talent but were unable to realise their potential, including drivers whose career was brought to an untimely end, for whatever reason.
. . . was born in 1942, in Santa Fe, Argentina, raced in F1 between 1972-1982, and missed out from being missed off this list, by just one point. Carlos started racing in 1965 in local saloon-car events and after winning the Argentine F2 Championship in 1969 moved to Europe with Automovil Club Argentina to contest the European F2 Championship.
Sometimes a new driver arrives on the scene, out of the blue, and immediately catches the attention of all about him, and Carlos was no exception: on the first lap, of his first race, at Hockenheim, he ‘took out’ F1 driver, Jochen Rindt. Carlos survived the ignominy to finish 13th in the Championship – with one 5th place, and one 6th. The winners that year were Clay Regazzoni, Derek Bell, and Francois Cevert.
A second F2 season saw Reutemann take second place to Ronnie Peterson although something of a trend seemed to emerge as he finished on the podium five times before finally winning at Albi, where he started on Pole, and also recorded fastest lap. Peterson, on the other hand, won 5 times, with 7 poles, and 5 fastest laps.
This was enough for Reutemann to receive an invitation from Bernie Ecclestone (who was content at that time to concern himself with the affairs of just one team…) to join double World Champion, Graham Hill at Brabham and, in his first GP, in front of his home crowd, he again immediately caught attention by putting his car on pole… and that was virtually it, for the season… Graham and Carlos finished the year in 15th & 16th places, with 4 & 3 points… giving Brabham 9th in the Constructors Championship, ahead of: Tecno, Politoys… and Connew…
Wilson Fittipaldi also drove for Brabham in some of the 1972 races, tending to out-perform both Reutemann and Hill, and was now engaged full-time, to replace Hill, who left to form his own team. The slow and unreliable Brabhams pulled themselves out of the mire and were able to finish the year in 4th spot, though way behind Lotus, Tyrrell and McLaren. Reutemann took two podiums, and finished 7th in the Championship.
Gordon Murray produced the BT44 and things started to come together for Reutemann, now partnered by a string of newcomers. In Argentina Reutemann qualified sixth and came through a multiple crash on the first lap unscathed, behind James Hunt, who quickly spun off. Reutemann took the lead, and held it to the end… Well, almost… as he ran out of fuel on the penultimate lap. In Brazil Reutemann put himself on the front row of the grid but tyre troubles left him a lap down at the end of the race.
After a two-month gap Reutemann qualified 4th at Kyalami and quickly jumped into second place behind Lauda, where they pretty much remained until Lady Luck now favoured Reutemann, and Lauda fell out with ignition trouble. On the way to his first F1 victory Carlos also posted fastest lap, putting himself into the Championship hunt, one point behind Regazzoni.
In Spain Lauda recovered to take his first F1 victory while Carlos spun out early on and dropped to fifth in the Championship. For the next seven races Reutemann had to cope with five retirements, adding only one point to his total at Brands Hatch until, at the Nurburgring, after qualifying sixth, he worked his way up to a podium finish.
In Austria Reutemann qualified second (with new teammate, Pace, fourth), got the jump on Lauda at the start, and went on to his second victory, putting himself back to 5th in the Championship chase behind a hotly contested battle between Regazzoni, Scheckter, Lauda and Fittipaldi.
At Monza Reutemann and Pace took second and third on the grid, but Reutemann retired and Pace finished fifth, a lap down. Canada was also disappointing but, at Watkins Glen, Reutemann was on pole, ahead of Hunt’s Hesketh, Pace, Mario Andretti (who had elated his local fans with the British-designed, California-built Vel’s Parnelli Jones car, in only its second appearance) and Lauda.
At the start Reutemann, Hunt and Pace disappeared, and… four laps from the end Pace took fastest lap as he ‘sailed’ past Hunt, to give Brabham a 1-2 finish.
American organisation again disappointed (remember 1959…) when Andretti had an ignition fault on the parade lap… and the race was held up for 25 mins. to allow the team to fix it. I don’t think that happens very often…
Austrian Helmut Koinigg, in only his second GP, crashed into the barrier and, as also happened the previous year with Francois Cevert, the lower rail gave way, the upper one did not, and poor Koinigg didn’t have a chance.
Fittipaldi’s success also gave McLaren their first Constructors’ Championship, ten years after Bruce and Teddy Mayer had formed the team. Sadly Bruce was not there to share the success.
Despite three victories Reutemann was unable to finish higher than 6th in the Championship.
It is difficult now to recall the annual game of musical chairs nearly forty years ago. Maybe Reutemann needed a change but, with the Brabham having improved throughout those three years, and after finishing 1974 with three wins, perhaps it was not so odd that Reutemann decided to stay…
My theory about a driver needing to assert his claim to the throne within three years had been achieved by Reutemann but, as with many drivers on this list, the time-span for taking the Championship was limited by additional factors. Reutemann entered F1 at the same time as Lauda, Jarier, Pace, Scheckter, Depailler, Hunt, Watson, and Laffite, who joined incumbents like Ickx, Cevert, Peterson, Emerson Fittipaldi, and Regazzoni. For 1975 they were joined by Alan Jones, and then had to face the imminent arrival of Tambay, Villeneuve, Patrese, Rosberg, Arnoux, and Piquet, before the 70’s were over. It was not an easy time for anyone to take the crown.
When the competition is this fierce a driver’s ability to pick (and be wanted by) the right team is crucial. Fangio was perhaps the first driver to fully take advantage of it. Loyalty to oneself is essential, if you really want to be No. 1 – not team-orders, and ‘multi-21s’, and Young Driver schemes….
Ferrari, McLaren, Tyrrell, and Lotus all retained existing drivers… so Brabham kept Reutemann & Pace… and were expected to be competitive. But it wasn’t the first time a car that finished the previous season so strongly, seemed to flop just a few months later.
In Argentina Pace & Reutemann were 2nd & 3rd on the grid, and Reutemann finished the race 3rd. In Brazil Reutemann & Pace qualified 3rd & 6th but Reutemann had to deal with tyre problems, while Pace took his first F1 victory. Pace & Reutemann locked out the front row of the South African grid but it was Pace’s turn to have problems and Reutemann finished 2nd… and they arrived back in Europe in 2nd & 3rd places in the Championship – Pace on 12pts. and Reutemann on 10. Fittipaldi was leading, with 15… and Brabham led the Constructors Championship. So far so good.
Barcelona, was a disaster and remembered favourably by no one. First the GPDA discovered the barriers had not been bolted together properly and refused to practice. The organisers spent the night working on it and were joined by the teams’ mechanics the following morning… but to no avail. The organisers threatened legal action if the race had to be cancelled, and to impound all the transporters and motor-homes. The GPDA was forced to relent but reigning Champion, Fittipaldi, drove the regulation three practice laps and, still furious, went home… as even Ken Tyrrell himself walked round the track, weilding a spanner…!
The two Ferraris started on the front row, ahead of Hunt and Andretti… who tangled with Brambilla, and pushed Lauda into Regazzoni. Lauda was sidelined and Regazzoni limped to the pits. Depailler also retired, while Wilson Fittipaldi and Arturo Merzario withdrew in protest.
And then it got worse…
Eleven of the leading cars either crashed or retired leaving Rolf Stommelen’s Hill (in Graham’s new team) ahead of Pace. Then Stommelen’s rear wing snapped. The car slammed hard into the barrier, bouncing back across the track into the opposite barrier with enough momentum to be launched into spectators, five of whom died. Stommelen broke a leg, a wrist, and two ribs, and several other spectators were injured. Pace crashed, trying to avoid the Hill.
It only took the organisers four laps before stopping the race.
Half points were awarded for the shortened event. Reutemann was granted 3rd, a lap down, and Lella Lombardi, two laps down, acquired half a point for 6th, after starting from 24th, and remains the only woman to have scored points (point…? Half…?) in a F1 GP.
At Monaco extra rails and catch-fencing had been erected. Both Brabhams qualified badly and Reutemann failed to score. At Spa Reutemann took another 3rd place. In Sweden Reutemann was 4th on the grid, and finished 2nd in the race, just six secs. behind Lauda, putting him back to 2nd in the Championship.
In Holland Hunt held off the Ferraris to take his first win, ahead of Reutemann, while at Silverstone Reutemann’s engine gave up the ghost on lap 4, dropping him to 4th in the Championship.
This was the race when Silverstone’s famous, and also unique, Woodcote corner was converted to a chicane – RIP. And Graham Hill retired as a driver, after seventeen(17) seasons in F1… And red/green lights were used for the first time, instead of national flags.
This race also finished early, during a hail storm, after most of the cars had ‘left the building’. Only six were actually running at the end, four of them, two laps down
At the Nurburgring Reutemann qualified back in 10th but after the first 23-kilometre lap, Reutemann was lying fifth – an almost Fangio-like performance. After three laps he was up to fourth and after four more laps, was 2nd, behind Lauda. On the tenth lap Lauda pitted because of a puncture and Reutemann went on to take his only win of the year, moving back to 2nd in the Championship chase.
Austria was yet another wet, and shortened race and the surprising Vittorio Brambilla urged his March through the field to take his one and only GP victory, the oldest driver in the race, at the age of 37.
In the penultimate round at Monza Reutemann needed to win if he was to stand a chance of the Championship at the final event in America – Lauda needed just half a point. Reutemann finished 4th, with Lauda 3rd, and it was all over, but Fittipaldi took 2nd and moved 2pts. ahead of Reutemann as they moved on to Watkins Glen where Reutemann finally achieved a decent qualifying lap to start 3rd, behind Lauda and Fittipaldi… but his engine expired after nine laps and he had to settle for 3rd place in the Championship.
It had been a dangerous, unpleasant and confrontational year and the tragedies didn’t end until two months after the last event when Graham Hill and most of the Embassy Hill F1 Team were killed in a light-aircraft crash, trying to land outside London in heavy fog.
The year we all remember, for perhaps different reasons, but nobody will forget Lauda’s horrific crash, and recovery, at the Nurburgring. Reutemann stayed for a fifth year at Brabham, who acquired engines from Alfa Romeo and suffered a string of retirements until, two races after Lauda’s absence, Reutemann negotiated a release from his contract and moved to Ferrari to replace Lauda… but, in the very next race, Lauda rose, phoenix-like, qualified 5th, and finished 4th. Reutemann was given a third car, which he qualified ahead of Regazzoni, and then sat out the final three races of the season – finishing a lowly 16th in the Championship.
But… in that single event Reutemann managed to impress Ferrari and was taken on full-time alongside Lauda, while Bernie offered Regazzoni the vacated seat at Brabham… which was declined. [See Part-16]
Reutemann beat Lauda to finish 3rd in the first race, and then won in Brazil, before Lauda asserted his superiority and went on to take his second Championship. Reutemann was only able to record four more podiums to finish 4th
in the Championship. Having wrapped up the Championship after Watkins Glen Lauda decided to sit out the rest of the year because of ‘differences’ at Maranello… and his place was taken by… Gilles Villeneuve…
Reutemann and Villeneuve competed throughout 1978, with the former taking the honours, out-qualifying Villeneuve 12:4; took 4 wins to 1; 2 poles to zero; and 2 fastest laps to 1… finishing 3rd in the Championship, to Villeneuve’s 9th. But… the Ferraris had been soundly trumped by Lotus.
Now seemed to come one of those ‘do or die’ moments when a driver has to make a decision, and preferably without tossing a coin. After two years with Ferrari, finishing 4th and 3rd, and after seven years in F1 and in danger of being left behind by several newcomers, and perhaps Reutemann might have felt Villeneuve would become ‘flavour of the year’ at Ferrari… it became necessary to be very shrewd – even courageous.
Throughout 1978 the Lotus 78/79 had won eight races, and walked away with both Championships, but the tragic loss of Peterson had provided a vacant seat… and Reutemann was able to acquire it. Some drivers have seemed to know when to change teams… and this is less a matter of choosing the best team from the previous year, but more about having an intuition, of which team will be best the following year…
So Reutemann joined reigning Champion Andretti at Lotus… but the 79, and 80, simply failed to repeat the previous year’s dominance. Reutemann equalled the qualifying performance of Andretti throughout the year, and finished on the podium four times, but was unable to do better than 6th in the Championship. Andretti, after a series of retirements, finished 12th.
Reutemann – Argentina – 1979
Meanwhile… Jody Scheckter, after five years of varied fortune with Tyrrell and Wolf, had been picked up by Ferrari in what many saw as either a bizarre or inspired choice and… Scheckter and Villeneuve took three wins apiece, and first and second in the Championship. Just when Reutemann thought he’d made the right decision this one, in retrospect, must have been one of the most unfortunate choices ever made by an F1 driver…
Reutemann made a quick move. After eight years his name was now up on the wall and there was no reason to assume Lotus was now a place for a future champion. A return to Ferrari was not an option, Tyrrell, Renault and Ligier were full… and McLaren and Brabham had been well off the pace in 1979 but… there was one other option… An option that many might have thought sufficiently courageous to be almost suicidal… However, if you’re standing on a cliff-ledge in a blizzard, suicide can become a non-optional option…
In 1978 Frank Williams’ new team had entered a single car for Alan Jones and achieved one podium finish. For 1979 they added Regazzoni to their line-up and won five GP, finishing 2nd in the Constructors Championship. If the FIA could recreate a situation where such success could be repeated (rather than come up with pathetic detail rule changes that, year on year, achieve nothing but ‘naughty noses’) they might save F1 from itself. If you perpetuate an elite, Gentlemen’s Club, environment which agressively discourages, even bans, new members, you are doomed when it comes to mass public participation…!
So, for 1980, Regazzoni and Reutemann (whose careers strangely leap-frogged each other throughout the 70’s) again swappped and Reutemann, after a slow start, stood on the podium eight times, had one win at Monaco, and finished 3rd in the Championship. He was beaten by Piquet in a resurgent Brabham while Jones trounced them both to become Champion. Williams took the Constructors Championship in only their third season, with almost twice as many points as the runners-up. There is something admirable about this record that is worth recovering in modern F1.
Ferrari, meanwhile had gone from a dominating 1st place in 1979 to 10th, such were the uncertainties. Back then one team/driver combination did not dominate both Championships year after year… and F1 didn’t need infantile nonsense like DRS, ‘monkey seats’, ‘naughty noses’, and ‘double-points’ to achieve it. Many claim you can’t go backwards but are we really going forwards… or just stumbling across the stepping stones of what used to be the best motor-racing series in the world.
Reutemann v Andretti – Holland 1980
On what appeared to be a winning streak Reutemann now stayed put, along with Jones. Lauda had retired during the 1979 season but Reutemann’s other main competitors were still snapping at each other’s heels and, as always, newcomers appeared every year, the latest being Prost, Mansell, de Cesaris, Winkelhock, Johansson, Warwick, Alboreto, Ghinzani… It wasn’t getting any easier.
By season’s end Reutemann had been pipped once again by Piquet, by just one point, but this time for the crown, while Jones had fallen to third. Lafitte and Prost took the next two places – a mere seven points separated these five drivers.
In much the same way that Reutemann had not been beaten by reigning Champion Andretti, he now wasn’t intimidated by reigning Champion Jones even to ignoring pit-signals, in Brazil, telling him to give his win to Jones… but Reutemann was not in the same class as Barrichello and Massa, nor even Webber… However Jones was so incensed he even refused to take his position on the podium, although it was hardly the race-organisers’ fault. There was no ‘pre-agreement’ – Reutemann was leading and was then instructed to move over, and he did what any race-winning, Championship-challenging, driver would probably have done, especially as it was only the second race of the year.
Throughout the year Reutemann out-qualified Jones 10:5, took 2 poles to Jones’ 0, lost out on fastest laps 2:5, and they took 2 wins each. When they both finished Reutemann beat Jones 5:4 (though Williams had tried to make that 4:5). He also led the Championship chase from Race-3 to Race-14, apart from dropping one point behind Piquet in Holland. He went into the finale one point ahead of Piquet… and came out one point behind.
There was little or nothing Jones could have done to ‘assist’ Reutemann’s final putsch. It was therefore a trifle unnecessary for the still petulant Jones to publicly declare, before the race, he would be doing nothing to help his team-‘mate’. Shades of Webber…? But not of Brabham…
Reutemann claimed pole, with Piquet 4th, but at the start Reutemann had a gearbox issue and dropped to 5th on the first lap. Piquet, who only needed the two points from 5th place had also dropped back and was in 6th. At the end of lap-17 Piquet could see Reutemann was also having oversteer problems and slipped past… Reutemann fell back a lap, to finish 8th, and another Drivers Championship was settled. And Williams took the second Constructors Championship of their four-year career.
As the chequered flag fell it is said the Williams team had been happier with Jones’ victory than disappointed at Reutemann’s lost Championship…
Reutemann set the pole time using a chassis that he liked and used at most of the `81 races, and its engine had different camshafts providing better acceleration, but in the final session he and Piquet collided causing Reutemann to resort to an untested chassis built for the `82 season. Also, apparently, the 2nd, 3rd & 4th gears weren`t engaging well.
A further irony in 1981 was another FOCA/FISA dispute causing FISA members to boycott the opening race in South Africa which was then down-graded to a Formula Libre event and did not count towards the World Championships. Reutemann won this event from Piquet – which would have given Reutemann the Championship. Oh those endless whats, ifs, and maybes…
Despite winning the last race of 1981 Jones decided to retire and was replaced by ‘newcomer’, Keke Rosberg. The full story of the amazing 1982 season has been covered in a 4-part series back in September [See below].
Discounting the unfortunate year with Lotus, Reutemann had finished 4th, 3rd, 3rd, and 2nd in the previous four years and seemed as capable of taking the Championship as anybody else on the starting grids, so he must have gone into 1982 with plenty of cool confidance. However, there’s always something up someone’s sleeve that isn’t fully anticipated and, in the first event, in South Africa, the six fastest cars on the grid were all turbos… leaving Keke and Carlos in 7th and 8th. In the race, both Brabhams and both Ferraris failed but Reutemann was able to split the Renaults to take 2nd, with Rosberg in 5th.
Two months later they arrived in Brazil, where the altitude was lower, and the turbos were not so dominant. Rosberg put his Williams 3rd on the grid but an apparently troubled Reutemann only managed 6th – and crashed out of the race. However, he didn’t only retire from the race. When he returned to the pits he also retired from the Williams team… and also from F1… and from motor-racing.
Nobody has ever explained this unexpected action. The mood between Williams and Reutemann had been frayed for twelve months, perhaps more, but they had still stayed together for another year. It is often put down to the ‘Falklands War’ (also known as ‘La Guerre de las Malvinas’) (when Britain was embarrassingly behind the Nationalistic Thatcher), but the first ‘act’ of this confrontation of National egos only occurred during practice, and did not become a ‘conflict’ until two weeks later.
After ten years in F1, and about to celebrate his 40th birthday, Carlos Reutemann was still at the top of his game – no other driver on the grid at the time was consistently better. There were several in the same league, and some would later be regarded as superior but, of all the drivers on this list, who ultimately failed to win the F1 crown, Reutemann was the only one to voluntarily leave when he was still in a position to take the laurels.
Patrick Head asserted that Reutemann just seemed to lose interest but, by the way he was performing, this seems strange. I don’t know how I might have dealt with Reutemann’s dour personality (and apparently Lauda, Andretti and Jones were not exactly his mates – but who were their mates anyway…?) but his enigmatic and self-contained facade veiled a huge talent. As a race-driver I consider him the unluckiest person on this list. 12 wins, 33 further podiums, 6 poles, 6 fastest laps, having driven for Brabham, Ferrari, Lotus, and Williams, and come within one point of the World Championship.
After Reutemann’s pole position in his first GP (a feat equalled only by Jacque Villeneuve in 1996 – Andretti did it in his first ‘start’, but it was not his first GP – and Farina had started the first ever F1 GP…) his mechanic declared he was: “Impressive. Very calm. Never complained. Showed no emotion. You just knew that he was going to be good. And then he put the damn thing on pole.” and Motor Sport called his unflurried performance, ‘Clark-like.’
About that Brasilian GP, Frank Williams later said: “Well, it stirred up a lot of controversy at the time, but, quite honestly, I just found the whole thing very boring. As long as the team gets the points, I don’t care who scores them. Why should I care which bloody driver wins? They’re only employees after all.” (©Nigel Roebuck, Motor Sport)
In 1980 Carlos Reutemann had driven a FIAT on what became the Rally Argentina, and placed third and, in 1985, he drove the same event for Peugeot and again finished third. Apart from that one outing Reutemann left motorsport behind and entered politics, becoming Governor of Santa Fe, but disappointed many Argentinians by refusing to run for President, instead entering the Senate in 2003. In 2006 Italian President, Carlo Ciampi awarded him, Commendatore della Repubblica.
[The 1982 season was previously covered by JackBlackFan in a September ‘On The Day’ which spawned a 3-part
to be continued, next week…
5th – Ronnie Peterson
6th – Gerhard Berger
7th – Juan Pablo Montoya
8th – Giles Villeneuve
9th – David Coulthard
10th – Felipe Massa
11th – Mark Webber
12th – Tony Brooks
13th – Rene Arnoux
14th – Rubens Barrichello
15th – Dan Gurney
16th – Clay Regazzoni
17th – Didier Pironi
18th – Richie Ginther
19th – Francois Cevert
20th – Peter Collins