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Carlos Reutemann

Carlos Alberto Reutemann , nicknamed "Lole", is an Argentine former racing driver (who raced in Formula One from through ), and later a prominent politician in his native province of Santa Fe, for the Justicialist Party.

As a racing driver, Reutemann was among Formula One's leading protagonists between 1972 and 1982. He scored 12 Grand Prix wins and six pole positions. In 1981, during which year he was usually superb and had looked to be on the cusp of becoming World Drivers' Champion at last, in the end he finished second in the World Drivers' Championship by one point when he was overtaken in the last race of the season. He was the only Formula One driver to be at the podium of a World Rally Championship when he finished third in the 1980 and 1985 editions of Rally Argentina.

As a two-time popular governor and a senator, he has been considered by some, on several occasions, to be a worthy candidate for President, but he has always declined this possibility until December 2008.

Racing career

Descended from a Swiss-German grandfather, an Argentine father and an Italian mother, Reutemann was the first successful Argentine Formula One driver since the retirement of five-time World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio in 1958. After racing touring cars and Formula 2 in Argentina, he moved to Europe in 1970 to drive a Brabham for the Automobile Club of Argentina Team in the European Formula 2 series. He immediately received attention when he took out Austrian Formula One driver Jochen Rindt (that year's eventual World Champion) on the first lap of his first race at Hockenheim, but carried on the finish fourth. The next season, he finished a close second in the series to Sweden's Ronnie Peterson.

Impressed with his rapid progress, Brabham F1 team boss Bernie Ecclestone signed Reutemann to drive alongside veteran and two-time World Champion Graham Hill for the 1972 season. At the first race, in front of his home crowd at Buenos Aires for his first Grand Prix, Reutemann qualified his Brabham BT34 on pole position. This was a feat previously performed only by Mario Andretti, and since matched only by Jacques Villeneuve, and unlike those two, Reutemann was not driving the best car (teammate Hill qualified 16th). He finished the race in seventh after having to pit to replace his soft tyres, and the main highlight for the rest of the year was his win in the non-Championship Interlagos Grand Prix.

Teamed with Brazilian Wilson Fittipaldi Junior for the 1973 season, Reutemann scored two podium finishes and seventh in the Driver's Championship. For 1974, the Gordon Murray-designed Brabham BT44 was a vast improvement and the team finished a close fifth in the Constructor's Championship. Reutemann took the first three victories of his F1 career at South Africa, Austria and the United States. He might have won the first race of the year in Argentina, too, but the Brabham team apparently failed to properly fuel his car and he ran out of fuel with less than two laps to go while safely in the lead. Though he matched Driver's Champion Emerson Fittipaldi's win total, inconsistent performances in the other races left Reutemann sixth in the season standings.

Five podium finishes in 1975, including a dominant win in Germany at the old Nurburgring, allowed Reutemann to place third in that year's Championship. The Brabham team switched to the Alfa Romeo flat-12 engine for 1976 and suffered from serious reliability problems. After seven retirements and only one finish in the points (fourth place in Spain) in the first twelve races, Reutemann negotiated a release from his Brabham contract to sign with Ferrari. He raced only once for the new team, in a third car at Monza, then sat out the final three races.

When Clay Regazzoni left Ferrari for the Ensign team in 1977, Reutemann was paired with the feisty Niki Lauda, who had nearly died in a fiery crash the previous season. In the first two races, Reutemann finished third (frustratingly behind ex-Brabham teammate Carlos Pace) in Argentina and won in Brazil, outdriving Lauda in both events, but then Lauda reaffirmed his position as team leader. Reutemann's star receded and he did not win another race. Lauda won his second Championship, while Reutemann finished fourth.

When Lauda moved to Brabham in 1978, Reutemann became the senior member of the Ferrari team, joined by the young Canadian Gilles Villeneuve. Reutemann used the Ferrari 312T3 to win in Brazil, Britain and twice in the United States (Long Beach and Watkins Glen), outclassing his new Ferrari teammate Gilles Villeneuve in so doing. However, the Lotus team was dominant once their new model 79 was introduced at Monaco, and Reutemann did well to finish a close third in the points standings behind Andretti and Peterson.

With an opening at Lotus in 1979 after the death of Ronnie Peterson, Reutemann's decision to move from Ferrari to Lotus seemed like a natural one. The first few races went well for him - highlights being forceful second places in Argentina and Spain, plus a third place at Monaco - but, as the season wore on, it soon became clear that Reutemann's timing was off, and he struggled while Jody Scheckter won the title for Ferrari. So, after four podiums and six points finishes in the first seven races, the season went sour for Reutemann and he ended up finishing in only seventh place for the season.

Joining the Williams team for 1980 put him back in a competitive car once again. Williams had the excellent FW07 car at its disposal and Reutemann used it to win at Monaco and score eight podiums to finish third in the Championship. His partnership with number one driver and World Champion Alan Jones was hugely productive for Williams, who won their first Constructor's Championship with a then-record 120 points. But again, Reutemann's relationship with his teammate soured when, the following season, Reutemann disobeyed the team's orders and thereby refused to allow Jones to win the 1981 Brazilian Grand Prix. Jones never forgave this act of disobedience on the part of his teammate, especially as Reutemann continued to score more points than Jones throughout the remainder of the season. That Brazilian victory (and another in Belgium) - plus victory in that year's South African Grand Prix, which ended up retrospectively being given non-Championship status, much to Reutemann's chagrin - helped put Reutemann in a position to win a furious three-way battle for the title at the season-ending race in Las Vegas.

Near miss

Reutemann arrived in Las Vegas with a one point lead in the Championship over Brazilian Nelson Piquet. He began the race from pole position, ahead of Jones, who had vowed not to provide any "help" in Reutemann's quest, while Piquet was fourth. At the start, Jones jumped into the lead and Reutemann was quickly passed by Villeneuve, Alain Prost and Bruno Giacomelli.

On lap 17, battling over seventh place as they approached the last left-hander before the pits, Piquet's Brabham was nearly touching the back of Reutemann's Williams. Piquet got around Reutemann on the inside when Reutemann, fighting for the Championship, inexplicably braked early. Piquet said, "I saw his car getting worse oversteer, then he braked very early, I think in the hope I would run into him, but I saw it and passed easily."

On the next lap, Andretti also went by Reutemann. Piquet put himself in a position to score points when he took over sixth place from John Watson on lap 22. Reutemann continued to slip backwards with gearbox trouble, having lost fourth gear as early as lap two.

Having mounted the strongest Championship challenge of his career, Reutemann finished the race in eighth, a lap down, and the title went to Piquet. However, if the 1981 South African Grand Prix would have been a race with World Championship Points awarded, Reutemann would have been World Champion with 58 Points against Piquet's 56. He returned with Williams for 1982 with his confidence partially restored, and he finished a fine second in the season opener in South Africa, the only Cosworth-engined runner able to take the fight to the much more powerful turbo-engined Renaults. A dispute with Frank Williams regarding politics, however, caused him to leave Formula One after the Brazilian race and his racing career was over.

Political career

After retiring from racing, Reutemann's popularity led the Justicialist Party of the province of Santa Fe to invite him to run for governor. He won the election and ran the province for one four-year term . The provincial constitution does not allow for re-election, but after four years Reutemann presented again and won the governorship for the period 1999–2003. During those years, his profile grew and he became one of the leading politicians in Santa Fe and in Argentina.

Reutemann's second term was marked by the nationwide economic problems brought by the recession that had started in 1999 and ultimately led to the socioeconomic crash of 2001. Under Reutemann, Santa Fe kept a conservative fiscal policy, whereby it applied discounts and froze public workers' salaries and pensions through an Economic Emergency Law. The province was among the few not to resort to the issue of government bonds as a form of quasi-currency, and thus did not become highly indebted.

After the 2001 crash and the resignation of Fernando de la Rua, Reutemann surprised and disappointed many by declining, on several occasions, to run for president. He finally presented himself for the 2003 general election and won a seat in the National Senate, which he occupies at present.

During the 2005 legislative elections Reutemann chose not to be a major participant in the campaign. After the PJ lost to the Socialist Party candidates for the first time in Santa Fe, members of the party were rumored to be unhappy about Reutemann's low profile. Reutemann also declined to run for governor of Santa Fe again in the 2007 elections. [*]

On January 1, 2006 Reutemann was named Commendatore della Repubblica by President of the Italian Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

External links

Web site

Santa Fe Federal

Carlos Reutemann

Carlos Reutemann National Senate

Santa Fe Federal on Facebook

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Carlos Reutemann

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