In the prelude to what would be his official debut in Formula 1, on January 23, 1972 at the Argentine Grand Prix, Carlos Alberto Reutemann showed his hierarchy as a driver and committed the “insolence” of setting the fastest time qualifying with his Brabham BT34. It was not something usual for a rookie, for that reason most of his opponents sowed doubts and suspected a supposed timing error, not wanting to believe that this 29-year-old from Santa Fe could get the best time.
However, who was until then two-time F1 champion, Jackie Stewart, took the lead of those who did not doubt Reutemann and dismissed any type of complaint about the classification of a race that the Scot won the next day at the Buenos Aires Autodrome before 70 thousand souls.
That historic and torrid day, the Argentine public once again felt its heartbeat to the limit with the return of the Formula 1 Grand Prix after a decade, again with an Argentine driver perched among the greatest figures in world motorsport.
The stands were packed as soon as the gates to the venue opened because everyone wanted to see the local credit drive the Brabham BT34, one of the latest models that the constructor Ron Tauranac had designed for the brand that Jack Brabham founded. The English brand had been acquired by the British Bernie Ecclestone, who gave the Santa Fe man the opportunity. With Reutemann, the project of the Argentine Automobile Club to promote and project an Argentine in F1 was successfully closed.
If attention was focused on Reutemann’s performance, everything was enhanced by the pole position of the Santa Fe native the day before the IX Gran Premio de la República Argentina. Reutemann, who knows the track for having raced in various national categories, set his best lap with 1m12s46 on circuit No. 9 of 3,345.50 meters. His great performance fueled the illusion of seeing a winning Argentine again, as in the times of Juan Manuel Fangio and Froilán González. When he achieved that record, Ken Tyrrell himself, director of the team that bore his last name, and who had Jackie Stewart in his team, was the one who confirmed it in the face of Ferrari’s protest with the timekeepers.
All doubts dispelled, the public celebrated the result when it was confirmed that the Santa Fe driver started first, with Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrell in second place on the grid. Moments before the start, Tyrrell approached the Argentine and said: “Carlos, remember that it is your first race…”. And the Argentine GP got underway at 4 in the afternoon on that hot January 23 to complete 95 laps (317,780 kilometers) with 70,000 fans in the stands.
Faced with an erroneous decision by the Brabham team, the car from Santa Fe fitted a different tire compound than the one planned and as the laps passed Reutemann lost positions, until he had to stop to change the left wheels, losing more than 40 seconds in the pits. “I was already settled behind Stewart when I noticed that I couldn’t keep up with that pace because of the way the car was going and then I slowed down a bit and Emerson Fittipaldi and Denny Hulme came up to me,” said “Lole” as he got off. of his car after finishing seventh. “On lap 45 I noticed the traces of my tires due to wear and I knew that at any moment they could burst. I was traveling on the fabrics, that was the moment I decided to stop in the box,” he explained.
Stewart was convincing from start to finish and with the Tyrrell 003, designed by Derek Gardner, he controlled the differences with his opponents, crossing the finish line almost 26 seconds ahead of New Zealander Hulme (McLaren). Almost a minute after Stewart, the Ferrari 312B of Belgian Jacky Ickx arrived, who as soon as he got out of the car he traveled by helicopter to Ezeiza to take a flight to Paris, and did not go to the podium ceremony, to which Reutemann was invited to celebrate your debut.
In the history of Formula 1, only four drivers managed to set the best qualifying time in their debut: the Italian Giuseppe Farina, with Alfa Romeo in 1950, the Italian-American Mario Andretti, with Lotus in 1968, the Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, with Williams in 1996, and Reutemann, with Brabham in 1972.
That Argentine GP marked the beginning of a successful campaign for “Lole”, which included 146 Formula 1 competitions in different teams: Brabham (1972-1976), Ferrari (1976-1978), Lotus (1979) and Williams (1980-1982). ). He won 12 races, had 6 pole positions, 6 lap records and was on the podium 45 times.