Tuesday, 13 September 2011


Carlos Reutemann career 1972-1982

Kimi Raikkonen, who raced in Forumula 1 from 2001-2009, and Carlos Reutemann, 1972-1982, had at least as much natural talent as the best of their rivals: outstanding speed, sensitivity and racecraft. Yet neither seemed to fulfill the promise and high expectations that we the fans, or many in the media or pitlane expected.

Completely different characters, they did share some similarities: both could be enigmatic, neither were great communicators and they did not readily befriend team-mates. Each ‘hit a wall’ when faced with unexpectedly fast team-mates: Reutemann in his fourth and fifth seasons with Carlos Pace, and Raikkonen in his seventh to ninth seasons with Filipe Massa..

Kimi and Carlos were nevertheless superb drivers, as shown in the Driver Ratings table below. The ultimate pace is represented by the figure 100.0, slower speeds are shown in 0.1 increments. These can also be read as percentages or as a best/fastest lap of 100.0 seconds.



Bear in mind that great drivers such as Hunt and Peterson peaked at 100.3, and world champions Graham and Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Emerson Fittipaldi at 100.5. This puts the speed of Raikkonen and Reutemann in perspective.

Kimi started at Sauber-Ferrari phenomenally at 100.7 for a rookie, much like Senna and Schumacher. After slightly outpacing team-mate Heidfeld, McLaren-Mercedes snapped Raikkonen up for the next five years. This could not have been a better career move: the team were top-rate and Kimi had experienced Coulthard against which to measure himself and learn. DC rated 100.5 to 100.6 for the three years 2002-2004 and won twice. Kimi was faster and also recorded two wins. They were up against the Ferrari-Schumacher steamroller, despite the McLaren-Mercedes being virtually as fast, driver-neutral.

For 2005 Coulthard was replaced by young charger Montoya. Would the bombastic Colombian blow Kimi away? Would ‘The Iceman’ prevail? Ferrari slipped with their Bridgestone tyre coordination, and their place as main contenders was taken by Renault and Alonso, who managed 7 wins. Montoya rated at an impressive 100.3 in his first year with McLaren, which perhaps pushed Kimi to 100.1. He consequently managed 7 wins and 6 poles! Great by any standards. Montoya took three wins and one pole. McLaren were the best team with ten wins to Renault’s eight.

The silver Mercedes-powered cars slipped for 2006. Although Raikkonen peaked at the ultimate 100.0 and Montoya remained on 100.3, they did not score a single win! Montoya walked out midway and left F1. Ferrari were back, with Michael and Massa scoring nine times to Alonso-Fisichella’s eight for Renault.

Michael Schumacher retired and Ferrari at last got Raikkonen for 2007, whom Jean Todt had long praised as Michael’s successor. The likable Felipe Massa, who had got on well with and learned from Schumacher, was expected to play a supporting role. Surely, in the face of Kimi’s sheer speed, experience and smoothness? Although Kimi won his Ferrari debut in Australia, Massa surprised in being just as fast, taking three poles to Raikkonen’s one in the first seven races! Felipe won two races before Kimi managed two more. Massa won again, then Kimi took three near season end to take the title. It was close, Ferrari with nine wins , Renault eight.

For 2008 Raikkonen and Massa again equal-rated at 100.3, but Felipe did better: six poles to Kimi’s two and almost won the drivers title with six wins, Raikkonen taking two. Everyone was surprised at this, except Felipe’s engineer Rob Smedley. Kimi was not quite at ease with the Ferrari’s balance and did suffer some bad luck. But was he rattled by his team-mate’s speed? The 2007 and 2008 the Ferrari’s were the fastest, most successful cars.

Raikkonen’s last season in F1 with Ferrari in 2009, was strange one: he was slightly faster in speed than Felipe, but could not outshine him in the races. Then Massa suffered his serious accident and injuries in Hungary which put him out for the season. Kimi seemed to shine a bit more, picked up pace to rate 100.2 and managed one win. The Ferrari was half-a second-lap off-pace though. This was far too much to give away in a season dominated by the ‘Honda’- Brawn-Mercedes of Button and Barrichello, and by a surging red-Bull-Renault team led by Vettel.

Raikkonen retired to go rallying for 2010, the balance of his contract having been paid by Maranello to make way for Alonso! It was felt that Kimi’s heart was not sufficiently in it. Difficult to say, for Kimi hardly said anything, he did not play soccer behind the pits with the mechanics as Massa and Schumacher did...

Going back almost thirty years to Reutemann: he arrived in F1 with a bang, by setting his Brabham-Cosworth on pole at his 1972 Buenos Aires debut. This was deceptive, however, for Carlos’car had been fitted with super-grippy tyres that faded within a few laps. In that rookie season he easily showed superior speed to histeam-mates, the aging Graham Hill and Wilson Fittipaldi.

Carlos immediately showed talent in rating 100.6 then 100.5 in his second and third seasons with Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham team, again easily outpacing fellow Brabham drivers Wilson Fittipaldi and John Watson. For 1974 Carlos managed three wins in the sharp-edged BT44. It looked as if his promise was being realised...

Bernie’s hiring of Brazilian Carlos Pace in 1975-6 stopped the Argentinian’s rise! Pace was immediately very fast, and Reutemann slowed to 100.7 then 100.8! Most unusual for driver of such talent. He did not see the 1976 season out at Brabham. For the 1976 Italian GP Ferrari employed Reutemann, thinking reasonably that Lauda would not be available, let alone competitive after his near-fatal, Nurburgring crash. Lauda was incensed and determined to beat Carlos at Monza: bandaged and in severe pain, Niki finished an amazing fourth, Carlos ninth. Reutemann sat out the rest of the season.

Taken on full-time by Ferrari for 1977, Carlos was disliked, out-psyched and again out-raced by Lauda all year, with 3 wins and the driver’s championship to Reutemann’s single win! Carlos’s rating had improved though to 100.4, the same as Jones and Scheckter in their peak championship years. Lauda walked out before year-end to lead the Brabham team, and Carlos was joined by the very young Gilles Villeneuve.

Carlos and Gilles got on well at Ferrari in 1978. They raced at 100.1 and 100.9 respectively and gave the dominant ‘ground-effect’ Lotus-Cosworths of Andretti and Peterson a run for the championship. Carlos managed four fine wins, Gilles one. Unfortunately for the next year, 1979, Enzo took Jody Scheckter on board. Carlos signed up to join Andretti at Lotus. The Lotus-Cosworth 79 was way off-pace as rival teams, particularly Williams, out-designed them for ground-effects. Mario and Carlos equal-rated at 100.3, but Andretti did not get on with the Argentinian. Lack of car speed probably de-motivated both drivers. Carlos outraced Mario and scored more than twice as many points, but the poor car disguised these two great drivers’ performances.

The last team move for Reutemann was to Williams for 1980. His team-mate was Alan Jones, who had very ably led the team from its formation in 1978. In 1980 Jones raced at his peak of 100.4, won five times and the Championship; Carlos at 100.6 and just one win.

For 1981 Reutemann outpaced the Australian, at 100.3 vs 100.5! The team-mate problem started at the second event in Brazil. Carlos was leading Jones, when a sign came from the pit: let Jones through! Carlos ignored it and won, the Williams team’s second one-two of the season! Jones was livid and outspoken, and Frank backed him. The two drivers hardly spoke to each other for the rest of the season. They each won twice, but Piquet/Brabham and Prost/Renault each managed three wins. The season finale at Las Vegas was disaster for Carlos, who could have won the championship from pole. Instead he started slowly, finished eighth and afterwards said his car’s suspension was not right. Jones gleefully won the race and Piquet/Brabham-Cosworth the championship. So disappointing for the many Reutemann fans...

Jones promptly retired from F1 and Carlos continued for 1982 to lead Williams, teamed with the young and very fast Keke Rosberg. On season average, Carlos raced at 100.3 to Keke’s 100.5. Carlos finished a fine second to Prost’s turbo Renault at Kyalami’s season opener. He then dropped out in the next race in Brazil from a collision with Arnoux’s Renault, while Rosberg finished an outstanding second. Like Jones, Reutemann then promptly announced his retirement! Both quoted their dislike of the FIA regs and the hard-sprung cars. These team-inconsiderate actions helped define Frank Williams’ attitude to drivers forever after. Understandably.

Results: 18 wins and 16 poles by Raikkonen, 12 wins and 6 poles by Reutemann.
Raikkonen seemed less affected by team politics, if at all. For expert analysis of Raikkonen’s driving style, refer to Peter Windsor’s race reports for 2008. Peter was a great friend of Reutemann’s, and has written extensively on Carlos’ career, as has Alan Henry. Kimi had better cars overall, with absolute, top-rated ones in 2003, 2007 and 2008; Carlos only in 1980. As always the car/team were critical to results, as was the competition each season. Coincidentally both had rookie years in cars that were 1 second-a-lap off-pace. Their talent soon ensured top drives thereafter. Perhaps neither driver was as obsessed with winning, or had that passionate need, as had Fangio, Ascari, Lauda, Senna or Schumacher? Whatever the motivation, they were among the most gifted of drivers. 

© Patrick O’Brien. Nothing from this page can be used without the permission of the author, Patrick E. O’Brien.

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