Carlos Reutemann was born in Santa Fe on April 12, 1942. The talented Argentine driver is considered one of the most unfortunate drivers in the history of the Circus, for his curse in always being in the right team to win the world title, but unfortunately in the year mistaken.
Nicknamed Lole, Carlos Reutemann was defined by Enzo Ferrari as a tormented and tormented driver, in reference to his frequent ups and downs due to his personality, despite being gifted with speed and natural talent.
Carlos's career starts in Touring cars by participating in the Temporada Formula 2. Here he soon becomes one of the most promising drivers on the South American scene. His successes earned him a call from the Automobile Club, which decided to sponsor him an entire season in Europe, aboard the Brabham in 1972.
The debut takes place in the Argentine Grand Prix, on the Buenos Aires circuit. At the wheel of the Ford-powered BT34, the Argentinian won the Pole Position on his debut, having to settle for a measly seventh place in the race.
Despite the final disappointment, given the conditions on Saturday, Carlos earns the fame of a fast driver, and already from his third Grand Prix comes his first career success, on the occasion of the Brazilian Grand Prix. From the following race the BT37 makes its debut, which in terms of performance and reliability is certainly not at the level of expectations.
The remainder of the season is marked by six retirements; the Argentine proves to be very fluctuating in performance, a factor also due to a lack of experience, returning to the top five only at the end of the season, with a fourth place obtained in the Canadian Grand Prix.
The relationship with Brabham is destined to last five seasons, until, in the 1976 season finale, Enzo Ferrari is called. The alternations with Ferrari began as early as 1973, when Carlos decides to participate in some races of the prototype sports world with the Ferrari 312 PB, in the year of farewell to endurance racing for Ferrari.
With the 312 PB he obtained three second places at the Six Hours of Vallelunga, the 1000 Kilometers of Silverstone, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. On the Formula 1 front, on the other hand, aboard the BT42 he achieved no relevant results, with only two third places in France and the USA.
In 1974 the English team produced the Brabham BT44, a much more convincing car than the previous sisters, which allowed the Argentine to return to success, repeating the victory on three occasions, South Africa, Austria, and the United States, also obtaining a third place in the German Grand Prix.
In the same year, the sporadic commitment to the World Sports Prototypes continues, this time with the Alfa Romeo T33/TT/12, following the farewell of Ferrari the previous year. With the Milanese car manufacturer, distant sister of Ferrari, Carlos obtained two second places at the 1000 Kilometers of the Nurburgring and the 1000 Kilometers of Imola.
In 1975 an evolution of the BT44 was created, called BT44 B, which proves even more convincing: the Argentinian wins in the German Grand Prix, followed by two second places in Sweden and South Africa, and three third places in Argentina, Spain and Holland, thus signing his best Formula 1 season with 37 points and third position in the final world championship standings. In 1976 the Brabham BT45 turns out to be a total disaster, with Carlos incurring nine seasonal retirements.
At the end of the season comes the call of Enzo Ferrari to replace Niki Lauda, who has just returned from a terrible accident during the Nurburgring Grand Prix: during the summer, Reutemann manages to free himself from the contract that binds him to Brabham, with the help of Martini, who pays half of the $ 100.000 penalty to Ecclestone, before joining the Maranello house and racing the Italian Grand Prix in Monza.
On Tuesday August 31, 1976 Reutemann meets Ferrari. The Argentine driver arrives in Maranello around noon and is received by Enzo Ferrari. The conversation, during which the form of collaboration between Carlos and the Modenese house is agreed, went on for a long time. Then, at 4.45 pm Reutemann goes to the nearby Fiorano Circuit, where he makes a few laps in a touring car to get acquainted with the track.
Subsequently, Reutemann gets on the 312/T2, with which he makes about twenty laps, some of which at high speed, under the eyes of Ferrari. So, the following day, that is to say on September 1, 1976, Ferrari issues the official communiqué announcing the engagement of Carlos Reutemann for the last four Grand Prix of the season:
"The driver Carlos Reutemann, made available today, has agreed with Ferrari his collaboration for the next Grand Prix, starting from Monza, pending the return of Lauda. The 1977 team formation will be defined, together with the technical program, after Japan".
From the Monza Grand Prix, Carlos Reutemann therefore made his debut in Ferrari, aboard the 312 T2. Hired to subtract points from Hunt, Reutemann finishes ninth at the Italian Grand Prix, then leaves room for the returning Lauda and Regazzoni, who ends his adventure in Ferrari giving way to the Argentine driver.
In 1977 Reutemann conquered a podium in the first round of the season in Argentina, followed by a victory in Brazil and an eighth place in South Africa. The season continues with two second places in Spain and Japan, and two third places in Monaco and Sweden. But it was after Lauda's controversial farewell to Ferrari that in 1978 all the attention of Ferrari fans and the press was turned to Reutemann, who at the end of 1977 was joined by the young Gilles Villeneuve. Before the Japanese Grand Prix, Ferrari issues a press release which shows that:
"Niki Lauda phoned Ferrari's head of sports management and told him that he did not feel in a position to participate in the Japanese Grand Prix. Therefore. Reutemann and Villeneuve will take part in the competition".
For Ferrari, however, the dilemma remains as to which driver to partner with Carlos for the 1978 vintage, after at Fuji Gilles Villeneuve glides over some boys placed in an area off limits to the public.
"What do you want me to think? That Wolf isn't that friend he claimed to be him? That Amon for some reason he wanted to give us bad advice?"
He will declare Enzo Ferrari referring to Gilles and the people who advised him on the engagement, after the outcome of the Japanese Grand Prix. The founder of the Maranello house is now undecided about who to hire between Emerson Fittipaldi, Eddie Cheever, Elio De Angelis or Villeneuve himself. But the reservations disappeared when on November 12, 1977 the same Enzo Ferrari, at the presentation of the T3, declared:
"We have two pilots in whom our trust is placed. Reutemann who should have freed himself from certain psychological subjection and Villeneuve who we believe is a potential talent. Many ask why this Canadian boy wanted him: I have already specified the reasons why he was hired. and I hope that he will be able to respond in the best possible way to our expectations even if, unfortunately, in two races he met unfavourable and unfortunate occasions".
The 1978 season is a strange and special year for Ferrari and Reutemann. First of all, Ferrari abandons the Goodyear tire manufacturer to switch to the Michelins. And secondly, the struggle between the two manufacturers will change the entire course of the season for the Argentine and for Ferrari itself.
At the inaugural Grand Prix of the 1978 season, Carlos Reutemann starts from second position. Mario Andretti, who started from pole, immediately imposed a very high pace in the race, managing to dig a certain margin over his pursuers. During the race, the Argentine driver suffered from tire problems, so much so that he was passed by both Niki Lauda and Patrick Depailler, on the fourteenth lap; three laps later he is also passed by Hunt and Peterson.
The home driver's race is definitively ruined on lap 26, when he comes into contact with Jacques Laffite: Carlos Reutemann is thus forced to a stop in the pits, where his tires are changed. The Argentine, now fifteenth, will be able to improve his pace, but will not return to the points area, coming only seventh.
The race ends after only 52 laps, and not the 53 expected, due to a mistake by the flag-waver, Juan Manuel Fangio, who lowers the checkered flag with one lap in advance. Fangio justified himself by stating that the flag had been moved by a gust of wind and that having seen Reutemann slow down he thought that the Ferrari driver had understood that the race was over.
"This was for us the first Grand Prix in collaboration with Michelin and it is clear that the French manufacturer in Formula 1 has to make their bones. immense experience, and has accepted Ferrari as a team which can give it a great technical contribution, but it is also true that our team is watched by everyone and therefore any failures could play to the detriment of the Michelin inclusion. racing is quite positive, even if I haven't been able to transform the good things obtained in the tests into a useful result. We lacked that experience in the tires that we can only have between a few Grand Prix. The changed conditions of the track, compared to the days of the tests, made us opt for tires that would provide us with a certain guarantee of durability for the entire race. Unfortunately, with these tires we didn't know exactly how the car would respond, because we had never had the chance to test in such environmental conditions before. When Reutemann stopped to check the car after the slight collision with Laffite, we replaced all four tires just to continue that discourse on the experience we have to have in collaboration with Michelin. When Reutemann entered the pits, for the race was now compromised and then, again in agreement with the French technicians, we replaced the tires with another set of different construction, which proved better at the line so that the Argentine was able to make a good comeback".
Mauro Forghieri will state at the end of the Argentine Grand Prix. In this regard, Michelin brings to Brazil a new type of tire, the S9, which had not been used in Argentina for fear that it was too fragile and could not withstand a whole race. Goodyear, to respond to the tires proposed by Michelin, provides its teams with two new types of compounds, softer.
In the half hour of testing on Sunday morning, the fastest drivers are the Ferrari drivers Carlos Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve, who test in race set-up, clearly detaching the rivals, as they mounted the S9 tires supplied by Michelin.
At the start, Carlos Reutemann, who started from fourth position, conquers the top of the race, distancing Ronnie Peterson, who had a bad start, already at the first corner and remains in the lead until the finish line, bringing a Michelin-wheeled car to the first success in the world of Grand Prix.
When Carlos crosses the finish line, the Ferrari garage explodes with joy, and as the mechanics embrace each other, a group of Argentinian fans, led by the Argentine driver's enterprising wife, sings in a triumphal chant.
"As soon as I started, I saw in the mirrors that the others were detached and so I immediately pushed hard to increase the advantage. The car, the engine and the tires did not give me any problems. Even the heat, perhaps because I was in the lead, all concentrated so as not to make any mistakes, it didn't bother me. Now it's too early to talk about the championship, but this year starts well".
A great satisfaction for Reutemann, already criticized following a bad first race.
With Ferrari bringing the 312 T3 model to Kyalami, it seems that the championship can continue positively for the Argentine driver. However, first a strong political clash between Enzo Ferrari and Bernie Ecclestone, in which the founder complains that the decisions taken in December 1977, in a meeting held in Modena, which provided that Enzo Ferrari would be left with the sports management of the 'association, were then modified in a subsequent meeting held in London on February 1st 1978, and the lack of real Michelin qualifying tires penalize Carlos' path towards the world title.
In South Africa, in qualifying Carlos did not go beyond the ninth time, while in the race, on the fifty-sixth lap he did not notice the oil left by Rupert Keegan's car on the first of the mixed part of the track, and ended up off the track, retiring. Given the particular technical characteristics of the Long Beach city track, Goodyear, which supplies all the teams except Ferrari and Renault, carries eleven and a half inch front tires (against the usual ones) and twenty-six and a half rear tires, as per maximum regulation, in order to ensure greater grip and acceleration when cornering.
However, among the city streets it is the Michelins who work best and allow Reutemann to take pole position, flanked by teammate Villeneuve, despite having lapped with the reserve car and the great chaos due to the inability of the organization's timekeepers to draw up the ranking, so much so that times measured by the various teams are used to determine the grid.
In front of 75.000 spectators, John Watson forced Reutemann to widen his trajectory, favoring Gilles Villeneuve, who immediately found himself first. And while on the tenth lap Watson is forced to abandon due to the explosion of the fire extinguisher on his car, Mario Andretti - on the nineteenth lap - drops to fourth position due to a wrong choice of Goodyear tires and the lack of power of his engine, as well as on the twenty-seventh lap Niki Lauda, second, stops due to a fault in the electronic control unit that reduces the petrol pressure, on the thirty-ninth lap Villeneuve approaches the dubbing of Clay Regazzoni, who is in battle with Jean-Pierre Jabouille of the Renault, but instead of waiting for the straight, the Canadian tries to pass them just before a chicane. Hence a misunderstanding between Villeneuve and Regazzoni, so much so that the front right tire of the Ferrari hits the rear left of the Shadow and Villeneuve's car is thrown against the wall, touching Regazzoni's helmet.
Carlos Reutemann thus finds himself first, ahead of Jones. The Williams driver manages to keep up with the Ferrari driver, but does not find the space for the attack. On lap 47 the Australian's run-up was limited by a problem with the front wing of his car which was peeling off due to a manufacturing defect, and subsequently his car also encountered a fuel pressure problem. Carlos Reutemann thus conquers his seventh career victory and his seventieth for Ferrari, ahead of Mario Andretti.
After the two victories obtained by Michelin tires in the first four grand prix, Reutemann and Ferrari, updated in aerodynamics thanks to the work carried out in the Pininfarina wind tunnel, arrive in Monte Carlo as absolute favourites for the victory.
In this regard, Goodyear organizes a test session in Jarama between April 18, 1978, and April 20, 1978, addressed to all its customer teams. However, Niki Lauda and Jody Scheckter say, following the tests, they are not very optimistic about the progress of the tires.
And in the meantime, Shadow driver Clay Regazzoni proposes a riders' strike against the treatment that Goodyear, according to him, reserves for less important teams. A similar protest is proposed by Laffite after Goodyear supplies advanced tires only to Mario Andretti and Niki Lauda for the Monaco Grand Prix.
In the Thursday tests the best is Ferrari driver Carlos Reutemann, who precedes Niki Lauda by half a second. Ferrari, favoured by Michelin tires, also brings Gilles Villeneuve to fourth place. Everything suggests that Reutemann can easily win in Monte Carlo.
However, at the corner of Sainte Devote, Carlos Reutemann, author of a bad start, is hit by Niki Lauda; in the impact, the Ferrari's left rear tire is damaged, and the subsequent return to the pits causes the Argentine to sink to the bottom of the standings.
At the end of the race Niki Lauda will apologize to Reutemann, who finished eighth, for the accident of the start. It is curious that Reutemann, having not seen exactly who had hit his car, blames John Watson for the incident:
"In the confusion I only realized that a red car was too close to me. I hadn't had a very fast start but I could defend myself well. Instead, two hundred meters after the curve of St-Devote I realized that something was wrong: I looked and I noticed the left rear tire completely out of the rim. I stopped in the pits and resumed the race, one lap off. I fought but I have to admit that psychologically I was discharged by now".
At the end of the race, identifying in Watson the person responsible for his elimination, the Argentine goes towards the Irishman and accuses him, telling him:
"It's the second time you've come inside me. Try to be more careful because we're not in a bumper car".
Watson, astonished, then replied that he knew nothing about it:
"I didn't touch anyone. It was Lauda who touched you. He confirmed it himself, he says he touchedsomeone at the start, but he didn't know it was you. He apologizes, the collision was not voluntary".
The speed of the new Lotus 79 is also confirmed in Jarama: during Friday tests the best time is set by Ronnie Peterson, who precedes his teammate at Lotus Mario Andretti, trailing third-placed third, Carlos Reutemann, by a second. The extreme heat will penalize the afternoon session, in which the riders, due to tire problems, will not be able to improve the times of the morning session, held with a lower temperature.
Meanwhile, the tire war continues with Michelin alleging poor track grip due to particles released by Goodyear tires. However, in the warm-up on Sunday morning, the situation seems to be good for Michelin and Ferrari, as Reutemann, with a full tank of petrol, runs in 18"87 against Andretti's 19"42.
But during the Grand Prix the performance of the Michelin tires dropped sharply and the Ferraris found it difficult to keep a good pace due to imperfect tire behavior. The two Maranello cars are thus recalled to the pits. Subsequently, the Michelin specialists, pointing out that their tires show no particular signs of deterioration, disclaim specific responsibilities.
After returning to the garage to change tires, while he was third, Reutemann resumed the race in tenth position. The Argentine will be able to reach seventh place in about twenty laps, but on the fifty-eighth lap his Ferrari crosses the Varzi curve, raising a lot of dust and covering the short connecting straight with the subsequent Le Mans turn, slipping into the nets, causing serious damage to the car after having ripped up three rows of protective nets and flew over a guard-rail, stopping, half-overturned, against a fourth large net.
The Ferrari is immediately surrounded by firefighters and commissioners, while the loudspeakers broadcast dramatic news. The wife of the Argentine driver, who keeps the rev counter in the pits, bursts into tears. Fortunately, after having reassured the rescuers ("I'm fine, I'm fine, stay away, however, my petrol tank broke and there is a risk of fire"), Reutemann, out of the car alone, returns to the garage He was then hospitalized for a series of checks in the field infirmary of the circuit, from which, later, he was taken by helicopter to the La Paz hospital in Madrid for a safety X-ray examination. But the doctors and the driver himself, who wanted to go back to the hotel with his wife Maria, immediately reassured the men of the Ferrari. No injury, just a mild emotional state. The accident ends in the worst way a black day for Ferrari team:
"I felt that the car was going on his behalf, uncontrollable. I rule out an accelerator lock. What happened, I don't even know".
Ferrari's redemption is expected on the Anderstorp circuit. On the other hand, the new Brabham BT46B is the protagonist, on which a gigantic fan is applied to the rear. Officially it would only serve to cool the Alfa Romeo engine, but in reality, it acts by extracting the air from the bottom of the car to create the depression necessary to crush the car towards the ground, taking up the idea launched by the American Chaparral, a few seasons earlier.
A superiority and a solution that will be contested by the other teams, as this device would be a mobile aerodynamic element, prohibited by the regulation. But let's go by order. On the first day of testing the domination of Lotus 79 was confirmed, with Mario Andretti on pole, ahead of Jody Scheckter and Ronnie Peterson. In the morning session Niki Lauda had initially taken the lead, but the best time was set by Carlos Reutemann with 1'24"80. In the afternoon the sky clouded over, and the temperature dropped a few degrees, allowing Andretti to seize the best time, while Scheckter overtakes Peterson in the ranking only at the last attempt.
On Friday no one beats Andretti's time of the previous day, but the Brabhams conquer the second and third place. It is at this point that the legality of the device mounted by Brabham becomes the subject of various complaints, especially from Lotus: Andretti reports how the fan tended to lift gravel and debris from the ground, becoming dangerous for the safety of the other drivers.
What is surprising is that Brabham has not yet pointed out the actual superiority, given that according to what Gordon Murray later admitted, the team decided to hide during qualifying by filling the tank with petrol and mounting hard tires, so as not to reveal the effectiveness of the fan of the BT46B.
And so, in the race Mario Andretti maintains the first position, while Niki Lauda overtakes teammate Watson. Then, on the thirty-ninth lap, when Mario Andretti slips on the oil lost in the corner by Didier Pironi, Niki Lauda takes the lead and wins the race.
In his autobiography Lauda will write that, while other cars have to slow down when traveling over the oil slick, his Brabham can simply accelerate so that the fan activated by the gearbox is activated, which means that the grip of the car increases with the speed.
All this while the Ferraris are suffering from tire problems, finding themselves forced to slow down again. On lap twenty-four, Reutemann is passed by Jones, and in the following laps the cars with Michelin tires will be forced to a stop in the pits to change tires, which will make him lose the chance to reach the points:
"We can't find the tire-suspension balance. The cars didn't meet our expectations".
The men of Ferrari will say, while the Argentine driver bursts out against the press and declares:
"I did my best, but the car was absolutely wrong. Maybe it's better that you leave us alone so that we can discuss our problems and see to find the right solutions".
Although Andretti stopped due to engine failure, Reutemann was unable to take advantage of the favorable situation and only finished tenth. Halfway through the championship, the Argentine driver is fourteen points behind the top.
A situation unthinkable until recently.
On June 23, 1978, at a meeting in Paris, the CSI will decide to ban, at least until August 1, 1978, the use of the fan on the rear of Formula 1 cars. The choice to postpone to a later final decision is made to allow the technicians to have more time to study the matter, thus rejecting the request of FOCA (directed by Bernie Ecclestone, owner of Brabham) to be able to continue testing the device.
For this reason, Brabham is presenting a conventional model for the race, the BT46A, at Paul Ricard. At the same time, Ferrari presents an anti-roll and anti-pitch system on its cars, but Goodyear modifies its tire allocation policy, deciding to provide all drivers with the best compounds, thus allowing its customers to be able to put their cars at the reds of Maranello. In qualifying, Reutemann does not go beyond the eighth time:
"The eighth place is significant. With this time I will certainly not be able to enter the fight for the victory. I can assure that I do everything possible and if the car were really competitive I would be with the first. We hope that everything works out as soon as possible".
The Argentine driver declares, but in the race it will get even worse: Ferrari are negatively affected by Michelin tires and Gilles Villeneuve is forced to make two stops, while Carlos Reutemann is called back to the pits even five times. Thanks to fresh tires and an empty fuel tank, the Argentine takes the fastest lap of the race, at over 192 km/h, but reaches eighteenth, five laps behind the winner of the race, who is Mario Andretti again with his Lotus 79.
After the difficult French Grand Prix, Ferrari indicates that the race served as a sort of tire test, given the many stops the Prancing Horse drivers were forced to make. Engineer Mauro Forghieri explains:
"The sophistication of Formula 1 cars has reached such levels that the components needed to bring a car to the top are innumerable. Tires are one of the determining factors. If you can't put the power expressed on the asphalt with the tires. the engine is finished. The construction of the tires and the composition of the compounds are very complicated. It is enough to change the ambient temperature, to modify the structure of the asphalt of the track by a minimum degree to alter all the ratios. Unfortunately, we, with Michelin, we are in an experimental phase and we have to pay for inexperience. After all, we cannot even expect to always be at the top. The others have also had their ups and downs".
However, in the following days some newspapers began to claim that the South African driver Jody Scheckter would have already signed a contract with the Maranello house for the following season, while someone else even claims that the Wolf champion is ready to replace Carlos Reutemann even sooner. the end of the end of the current world championship. In this regard, Enzo Ferrari replies by saying:
"I have already sent a telegram to the newspapers that published the news. I have not seen the pilot".
It will be discovered only later that in fact the founder of the homonymous house contacted Scheckter, offering him a contract for the following year, and that the South African would have taken the place of Carlos Reutemann, who certainly must have perceived the skepticism towards him. How does Carlos respond to this situation?
Winning at Brands Hatch, in one of the most demanding circuits of the entire Formula 1 World Championship, despite Lotus testing a new version of the 79, with the possibility for the driver to manually adjust the hardness of the front anti-roll bars, as well as of the rear, and the Goodyear brings a new type of tires, allowing Ronnie Peterson to take pole with race and non-qualifying tires.
At the start Mario Andretti sprints best of all and the Lotus seem to be able to easily lead the race, trailing the third, Scheckter, by almost a second per lap. On lap six, however, Peterson retires, due to problems with the fuel system, while the tires worn by Goodyear begin to suffer severe degradation, so much so that on lap 24 Mario Andretti is forced to a pit stop to replace the right rear tire.
During the race, however, the engine betrayed Andretti, already recovering, due to the failure of the bearings that regulate the oil pressure. Without the gold-black cars, the elimination race continues until, on lap 61, Carlos Reutemann takes advantage of Niki Lauda's dubbing of Bruno Giacomelli, at the Clearways corner, and moves on to lead the race to the end. Carlos Reutemann is the first to cross the finish line ahead of Lauda and returning to fourteen points from the top, six races from the end of the championship.
When the checkered flag is lowered in front of the Argentine's 312 T3, the Italian garage explodes with happiness and someone, with difficulty, holds back the tears:
"It is a victory for two manufacturers, Ferrari and Michelin, who have recently worked at a frenetic pace to overcome a difficult moment. It is a success that rewards technicians, mechanics, but above all Reutemann, who in recent months had had to swallow bitter mouthfuls. Carlos was wonderful, he drove one of the best races of his career. He was criticized from many quarters saying that he was a rider born to finish second. Today he beat Lauda, who is a first guide, proving to be a rider. Carlos is a Latin rider who hears a lot of criticism and therefore this victory will serve to erase the bad moments of this season and look forward to the next tests with greater confidence".
Mauro Forghieri declares, who goes on to say:
"It is difficult to say if we could have won the same without the opponents' retirements. The races are made with overtaking but also with retirements. Our tires have behaved in crescendo and this gives us hope for the future. 'year to date with Michelin we have tried 104 tire combinations, a great job. In the next rounds we will be able to achieve other successes or sensational defeats because, let's not forget, we still have to experience to counter the Goodyear, which is in the breach for many and many years".
But for his part, Carlos does not show confidence for the continuation of the championship:
"I dedicate this success to my wife and to the two girls. It was a difficult race, drawn from the first to the last meter. I always tried to pass Lauda but overtaking was not the easiest because we were different cars, one attached to the another and a possible wrong move could have meant retreating a few positions because someone could have taken advantage of it. The car responded wonderfully and finally the tires also proved to be efficient. I don't think about it at the world championship, now I'm out of the fight. a deal that does not concern me, also because the domination of the Lotus continues so much that, if they did not retire, I would hardly have won".
In Germany we are talking about nothing but the agreement between Scheckter and Ferrari, but unlike the previous rumors, now it is expected that the Argentine driver can pair up with the South African in 1979 in Ferrari. Wednesday August 26, 1978, Scheckter arrives in Milan on Tuesday evening after 11.00 pm and the following day he goes to Maranello to sign a contract with the Italian team.
The reason why it is assumed that Villeneuve will give way to the South African driver is simple. Walter Wolf, the Canadian billionaire of Austrian origin who gives his name to the team for which he runs, jointly with 10% of the property, the South African driver, had said (and even threatened) several times that no one should try to take Scheckter away from him:
"If Ferrari dares to contact my driver, I will take legal action, at the cost of ruining me".
Well, following the almost official passage of Scheckter to Ferrari, which will arrive on August 17, 1978, we begin to hypothesize a possible change with Villeneuve who would go to Wolf, given that the North American billionaire knows very well the little Gilles to whom he has entrusted on many occasions one of his cars of the Can-Am formula and between the two also runs a great friendship.
Furthermore, the success at Brands Hatch and the conviction that all in all having an attack driver (Scheckter) and one capable of great regularity (Reutemann) in the team would be positive seems to shift the choice of Ferrari in favor of the South American who up to a few days earlier he was considered a starter at Ferrari.
After the success in Great Britain, the hopes for victory end even before starting for the two Ferrari drivers. In fact, in qualifying, the Maranello car manufacturer does not have qualifying tires, like the teams supplied by Goodyear, and even the great heat causes problems for Italian cars, as well as puts tires under pressure, so much so that Niki Lauda risks the dechaping of a wheel.
The great heat and the heat hit the track also on Saturday, forcing Reutemann to start twelfth. The two Ferrari drivers will complain about the lack of competitiveness of the tires and the suffering of the engine, as it was not possible to bring the usual petrol supplied by Agip to Germany.
The problems continue even in the race, when on the reconnaissance lap Carlos Reutemann encounters problems with his car due to a gas leak. For this reason, Carlos returned to the pits and in a few minutes was able to start with the reserve car, taking part regularly in the race, but after only fourteen laps he was forced to retire due to the same fuel problem:
"I couldn't be more unfortunate than that. In the first few laps I was worried because I had to use the spare car which of course was not perfectly balanced. Then I again accused the fuel pump problems and I had to stop definitively due to the breakage of the distributor membrane of the injection. Without these problems, given how the race went, I would certainly have been able to get a good position."
In Zeltweg, Austria, Ronnie Peterson sets the best time in Friday practice. Carlos Reutemann, favored by the new tires brought by Michelin, is second after the morning tests, but the official session on Saturday afternoon is somewhat chaotic and the Argentine driver slips to fourth position, after the tests first start with a quarter of an hour of delay, then, after a few minutes, they are interrupted as some paratroopers have mistakenly descended on the track, with obvious problems for safety, and are finally compromised by the arrival of rain.
Rain which also occurs about half an hour before departure but, not being insistent, does not lead the teams to mount wet tires. At the start Ronnie Peterson sprints in front of everyone, followed by Carlos Reutemann and Mario Andretti. At the third corner Mario Andretti immediately tries to overtake Reutemann on the outside, but the two touch each other and the Italian-American's Lotus 79 crashes into the guardrail, retiring. Andretti will accuse Reutemann for the error at the end of the race, but the Argentine will reply to the accusations.
After a wait of about fifty minutes, the race resumes with the cars lined up according to the standings at the moment of suspension: Peterson first ahead of Depailler, John Watson, Laffite, Pironi, Lauda, Hunt and Clay Regazzoni. The final classification would have been obtained from the sum of the times of the two sections of the race, however not making the actual classification clear to the spectators.
Among other things, the admission to the second start of Ronnie Peterson and Carlos Reutemann is questioned as the first one, in the lap following the one showing the red flag, had spun and was helped to get back on track. commissioners, while the Argentine was stopped on the fifth lap, along the track, after a collision with Hans-Joachim Stuck. But both are restarted.
The wet track favors the Michelin-wheeled cars in the first laps, so much so that in a few laps Reutemann is second, Villeneuve third and Jabouille sixth, always taking into account the actual classification.
Subsequently, with the track that in the meantime dries up, Reutemann changes the tires, but with cold tires he leaves the track and returns with the help of the commissioners: this subsequent help costs him the disqualification.
The winner is Peterson, who incredibly reopens the world championship, while Reutemann fails to take the opportunity to get closer to the top, and remains twenty three points behind Andretti. With four races remaining, Reutemann seems definitely out of the fight for the world championship.
In the Netherlands, with overcast skies and strong winds, Friday's practice is largely dominated by Lotus, with Mario Andretti ahead of Ronnie Peterson, while Carlos Reutemann, despite the gearbox failure, still manages to qualify third.
However, the Argentine driver will lose his position in favor of Niki Lauda, who was able to precede him by a hundredth of a second during Saturday's practice. In the race, Reutemann will run into the usual problems with Michelin tires and will be passed, between the thirty-eighth and the fortieth lap, by both Watson and Fittipaldi, and finally, on the fifty-fourth lap by his teammate, Gilles Villeneuve, finishing the race at seventh place.
With thirty two points behind and three races to go, Carlos Reutemann's dream of becoming world champion finally fades. After the official signing of Scheckter at Ferrari, which arrived on August 17, 1978, Carlos Reutemann decides to leave Ferrari. On September 7, 1978, the Argentine driver signs the contract that will bind him to Lotus for the 1979 world championship, while on September 6, 1978, the renewal of Villeneuve's contract with Ferrari is announced. Reutemann, as he had made clear in Holland, was very perplexed by the conditions exposed by Ferrari to Scheckter, given that the South African will earn 800.000 dollars for the following year, while the Argentine less than half:
"Money aside, they informed me that Scheckter will be Ferrari's first driver in 1979 and I don't feel like being a wingman in a team where I was number one after Lauda's divorce".
The Argentine driver then found an alternative solution in Lotus, which had the problem of replacing Ronnie Peterson, who had moved to McLaren. Reutemann will have to make the second of Mario Andretti, who is now one step away from winning the world title. But perhaps the fact weighs less on him, also because he, if nothing else, will have the certainty of racing with a winning car. Reutemann, despite having confirmed his skills as an experienced, mature and regular driver, was not exempt from criticisms from Maranello, which reproached him for some mistakes and a certain fragility of character. Colin Chapman comments on the signing of the Argentine driver, stating:
"I hired Reutemann because he proved to be a winning driver compared to the other drivers I had on hand. I wanted to hear Mario Andretti's opinion, but on his part there was no opposition. The actual signing of the contract was on purpose by Reutemann yesterday through an intermediary. Mario, on the other hand, had already renewed his before the race in Zandvoort".
Carlos Reutemann will conclude the championship with the third place conquered in Monza and Montreal, and the victory at Watkins Glen, ending the season in third position with 48 championship points:
"Four victories in a year are a good balance. Especially considering that Lauda last year with three wins had won the world title. It went a little less well for me, I didn't manage to make other placings, but I'm already satisfied as well. Lotus is a very good team and owns more than competitive cars. I think they have shown it all season. Anyway, for my part, ask Ferrari why I left. I don't want to say anything else. I am also happy because we have done a good job. Now the car is really good and above all the tires are fine and are growing from test to test. We have raised a child who has grown very well and I am convinced it will give many satisfactions in the future to those who He will replace me. In any case, I have shown that I am not a finished rider, as some have claimed, and that I always have a great desire to race and win".
Words could never be more prophetic. In 1979 Scheckter will win the World Championship, while the decision to abandon Ferrari turns out to be tragically wrong: with the English team, the Argentine driver does not get any victory, contenting himself with only two second places in Argentina and Spain, and two third places in Brazil and Monaco.
In 1980 Reutemann moved to Sir's court. Frank Williams, commuting between Formula 1, aboard the Williams FW07, and the Procar series, aboard a BMW M1. In Formula 1 he is in three retirements in the first four rounds of the season, but from the Belgian Grand Prix the Argentine and the English team have achieved one result after another, obtaining a third place in the Belgian appointment, a victory in Monaco, three thirds places in Silverstone, Italy and Austria, and three second places in Germany, Canada and the United States, finishing third at the end of the season with forty two championship points.
In Procar, on the other hand, he obtained a victory at Brands Hatch and a third place in Austria, on the Zeltweg circuit, navigating in the remaining five rounds between fifth and sixth position.
The 1981 season is crucial for Carlos: it is the year in which he will come closest to winning the title. Reutemann immediately obtained the victory in South Africa and a second place in the US West Grand Prix, but during the Brazilian Grand Prix, in Jacarepaguà, he overtook his teammate Alan Jones ignoring the team orders, thus going on to win the race. The two become enemies at home and their quarrel will continue throughout the season. Carlos fights strenuously against the young Brazilian driver Nelson Piquet, obtaining victory in Belgium, two second places in Great Britain and Argentina, and two third places in Imola and Monza, thus arriving at the last round of the season, the United States Grand Prix, with only one point ahead of the Brazilian.
At the Caesar Palace Circuit in Las Vegas, the Argentinian took pole position, but following his behavior at the beginning of the season, Alan Jones did not help him during the race. The Argentine, under pressure, is unable to finish in the points, while a fifth position is enough for Piquet to be crowned World Champion on the Brabham BT49C:
"Reutemann tried to throw me out. I braked a couple of hundred meters earlier than expected, forcing myself to an abrupt interruption of the maneuver. Luckily, I passed him. If we had collided and the cars had been damaged, he would have won the world championship. And It was a very bad action, his. Now, however, everything is over and I will try to enjoy a title that, frankly, I no longer expected after what had happened in the last few races. This time, however, despite the ailments I had to overcome, I managed to do a reasoned race. I arrived at the end with practically non-existent tires and it was a miracle that I didn't go off the track. Everything went well and I'm happy".
Nelson Piquet will declare, who becomes world champion on this occasion for the first time. Very black in the face, however, Carlos Reutemann, also destroyed by fatigue, comments on the race and the disappointment for the missed feat, admitting:
"I have never been able to use third gear and the car was set with too hard springs. There was nothing to be done. Plus, the physical effort literally destroyed me. I am exhausted, let me go and rest".
The Argentinian looks like the ghost of the smiling man seen before the start, unlike the race winner, Alan Jones, who instead appears in perfect shape:
"I got what I wanted and I managed to win this race. I showed everyone who is the strongest. The best moment? When I rounded Reutemann".
The disappointment for Reutemann is enormous, and the 1981 season becomes the last one completed by the fast Argentine driver, who participates in the first two Grands Prix of the season, obtaining a second place at Kyalami, and a retirement in Brazil.
Carlos is strongly unmotivated by the missed opportunity and the recent outbreak of war in the Falkland Islands, making him an unwanted Argentine in England. This leads him to desert the United States West Grand Prix, despite being registered for the event, and to officially retire from the racing world to devote himself to his farms in the Argentine pampas. The Argentine had already announced a similar decision at the end of the 1981 season, but was then convinced to stay in Formula 1.
The second renunciation of him in a few months is therefore not surprising, but it still has something elusive. In South Africa Reutemann talking to other drivers confesses that he has a Williams contract at home, but he hasn't even signed it.
After the tests in Brazil, the Argentine driver informs the mechanics that the car is not in order, that he does not like to drive it, and an hour after the end of the test he communicates to Williams his secret decision to abandon. What are the reasons for this further rethinking? From Buenos Aires there is a kind of confession signed by Reutemann, in which the pilot reveals:
"Already at the line of the Rio race I realized that I had lost all stimulus, I was no longer the same. My mood was no longer the right one to continue this difficult activity. I say goodbye to Formula 1 not because I am about to complete forty years, but for other reasons".
After retiring from the Formula 1 scene, Carlos Reutemann will return in a Formula 1 car in 1995, when, on the occasion of the return of the Argentine Grand Prix to the Formula 1 calendar, Ferrari gives him a lap of the track on board the 412 T1, with its number 11 applied over the years in Maranello. A well-deserved standing ovation is therefore dedicated to Carlos Reutemann by the whole home crowd, who shouts for the last time as he passes by:
"Y dale Lole".