In the first instalment of a six-part series we take a look at countries that have produced world champions – but now have neither Grand Prix drivers nor races in modern Formula 1. These are F1′s lost nations.
Last world champion: Juan Manuel Fangio, Maserati, 1957
Last Grand Prix winner: Carlos Reutemann, Williams, Zolder, 1981
Last Grand Prix starter: Gaston Mazzacane, Prost, Imola, 2001
Last Grand Prix: Buenos Aires No. 6, 1998
Argentina was the first country outside of Europe to host a true world championship Grand Prix. It gave F1 one of its greatest drivers in Juan Manuel Fangio, but none of its other drivers emulated Fangio’s title-winning success.
Argentina’s F1 history
Juan Manuel Fangio is remembered as Argentina’s greatest contribution to Formula 1. ‘The Maestro’ won five world championships, a record which stood for 46 years. He was one of several Argentinean drivers to race in the early years of the world championship, including Jose Froilan Gonzalez, the first driver to win a Grand Prix for Ferrari, and Onofre Marimon, who was killed at the Nürburging in 1954.
The Peron dictatorship bolstered its popularity off the back of its winning drivers, organising international-class races at a circuit in Buenos Aires. But it badly mishandled the running of its first world championship event in 1953, when the crowd spilled onto the track. A car hurtled into a group of spectators and several were killed – estimates varied between one and nine.
Absent from the calendar after 1960, the Buenos Aires circuit returned to the calendar in 1972, extended with a dizzying, high-speed loop. Now the home fans had Carlos Reutemann to cheer along, who qualified on pole position in his debut that year. He never won his home event, but Reutemann led the 1981 world championship heading into the final round at Las Vegas. When the finale came Reutemann was mystifyingly off the pace, and his indifferent drive let Nelson Piquet in to snatch the championship.
It was rumoured that politics played a role in Reutemann’s abrupt departure from Williams at the beginning of the following season, as the British army went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Reutemann later began a political career of his, was involved in bringing the Grand Prix back to Buenos Aires from 1995-8, and has announced his intention to stand for the presidency of Argentina in 2011.
Argentina’s F1 future
The new Potrero de los Funes circuit in San Luis dazzled the FIA GT crowd when it made its first appearance on the calendar at the end of last year. The circuit is not licensed to hold F1 races, but we can dream…
Do you think Argentina might return to the F1 calendar? Could we see a new Argentinean driver in Formula 1 soon? Have your say in the comments.
Images (C) Sutton Photographic, Daimler
Read more about Juan Manuel Fangio: Juan-Manuel Fangio biography