Formula 1?s lost nations: Argentina

Carlos Reutemann scored his final win in the 1981 Belgian Grand Prix

Carlos Reutemann scored his final win in the 1981 Belgian Grand Prix

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 N???rburging 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 ?ǣ 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.

Juan Manuel Fangio driving for Mercedes at Reims in 1954

Juan Manuel Fangio driving for Mercedes at Reims in 1954

Images (C) Sutton Photographic, Daimler

Read more about Juan Manuel Fangio: Juan-Manuel Fangio biography

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28 comments on Formula 1?s lost nations: Argentina

  1. Fantastic series Keith- you obviously know I eagerly await your feature on the United States :)

    I think Argentina would be a natural place for F1 to expand to- that San Luis circuit is fantastic and the populace is good-natured and crazy about sport (see: Argentina- Brazil soccer rivalry). I know there were some concerns that a new GP in the country may draw some spectators off Interlagos if it were paired up on a flyaway, but I think both events would still be packed.

    As long as Bernie and his assosiates are still in power, the determining factor in a new GP will always be the same: money. If Reutemann is elected, the possibility of government funding becomes realistic, but in any event it will be tough to swing without major money behind the project. Here’s hoping for a return for F1 under the beautiful blue and white banner- one of my favorite national flag designs around the world.

    As for drivers, I remember Lopez being talked about a few years back along with Lucaz di Grassi as “Renault-backed GP2 failures.” Since di Grassi now seems to be on everyone’s “must have an F1 drive” list, I wonder what happened to Lopez in that time frame? I don’t know if there are any other prospects out there, but surely a talented youngster could break out on the international scene with the proper backing.

  2. Clare said on 28th January 2009, 15:46

    This is a great idea for a series. So much so it prompted my first ever post (on the USA one) I couldnt help myself! I read this site almost every day but have never posted before!

    Just one comment regarding Argentina and the 1997 race –

    I also remember the Argentianian Grand Prix as the first place that Ralf Schumacher showed his true brilliance and pedigree… colliding with Jordan team-mate Fisi at the first corner. A wonderful start to a glistening and fruitful F1 career.

    He did go on to get third place in that race – first podium in only his third F1 race so wasnt an overly bad race for him! If he hadnt have hit Fisi there was a small chance he could have had the win :P

  3. Daniel said on 28th January 2009, 21:45

    I think we’re missing part of the point. Argentina losing its place on the calendar was quite obvious: old and too twisty track, the F1 heading East (In fact, the first Malaysian Grand Prix was introduced in 1999, while the last Argentine Grand Prix was held in 1998), and not a driver worth of attention since Carlos Reutemann…

    But the other part is: Why Argentina hasn’t produced a GP Winner since Reutemann?

    Despite the fact that I’m brazilian and, thereof, I don’t know much about argentine motorsport, I suspect that the weakness of the South American F3 Championship has a lot to do with it, mostly because, besides its weakness, almost every race is held in Brazil with brazilian drivers…

    So, the lack of a consistent single-seaters series in the country plays a heavy part in the fact that they’re not forming young drivers able to survive the test of the competitive european feeder series…

    So, except from a really hot talent that can appear anywhere, even in a country that has no tradition in Formula 1 (Like Kubica from Poland), and that will find plenty of space to develop in stronger countries, Argentina won’t be producing Grand Prix drivers in the forsseable future…

    • Fer no.65 said on 28th January 2009, 22:37

      True. Single seaters around here are a bit of a weak point. BUT you have to remember we are no longer a good market for F1.

      We don’t have any industrial activity due to political and economical problems, plus having such a worthy market like Brazilians never helps…

      USA is a big market for F1 teams and sponsors. That’s why they miss Montreal and Indy. Many brands sponsoring F1 teams (vodafone, ING, kingsfisher, karchner, petronas, RBS, etc) are unknown here. So, who would like to come to a country that doesn’t have any money and don’t know 50% of the products F1 offer by sponsorship?.

      That’s why no F1 driver from Argetina had a major place at the paddock. I also would rather sign in Yuji Ide from Japan than Pechito Lopez if i needed money.

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