Formula 1’s lost nations: Argentina

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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 – 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

Images (C) Sutton Photographic, Daimler

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

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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28 comments on “Formula 1’s lost nations: Argentina”

  1. I know I’m an ingenuous, but sometimes I get surprised because they spend lot of money in building new tracks instead of refurbishing wonderful old ones.
    I imagine it is not the same owner that spend money, but would it be that impossible to race again on that wonderful fast track which is long Buenos Aires version???

    1. Sadly I think the loop is gone now. The truncated track they used from 1995-8 was, and I’m being very kind here, rubbish.

  2. I always found it great fun to drive on F1 ’97 on the Playstation. Because it was so twisty, it was quite a challenge.

    Also, the pitlane entrance cut a huge chunk off the last corner, meaning that for qualifying laps, you could cheat and get a laptime 5 seconds faster than anyone else, and all this whilst on an in-lap.

    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.

    Anyway, those are my fondest Argentine GP memories.

  3. Nice series, Keith!

    I guess we can also expect the US, Canada, France, Austria, and New Zealand? Should be interesting.

    Can Argentina return to the F1 calendar? I like its chances under a Reutemann administration.

    Will we see an Argentinian driver in F1? As of now, no. For us to see another one, such hopefuls will probably need government support. Again, this is possible in a Reutemann administration, but less likely than the first question. But hey, if they get a GP, it might trigger popular support for young drivers.

    1. I’ve got a question mark next to France because I’m optimistic Bourdais might keep his drive. And there’s one other country not on your list…

    2. Seeth Effrica?

    3. Good one, ajokay! That sounds about right. :)

      South Africa, you mean. :)

  4. Agree with you, Keith.

  5. The f1, at the moment is going east, not west. But most of the arabs are going to turn their backs on f1, when they consider fit, like honda did. Then, may be is the time to return to argentina, portugal, holand, etc.
    Where f1 belongs.

    1. Don’t forget the USA on that list, my friend :)

      Indeed you are correct. While I am not at all opposed to the expansion of F1 into places like the Middle East and Asia, I also firmly believe that no nation or region should simply be allowed to buy a place on the calendar. Sadly, under Bernie’s watch, this is exactly what has happened and continues to happen.

      What Bernie fails to realise is that he could hold GPs in all of the nations we’ve just mentioned and they would be packed every year.

  6. Schumi the greatest
    27th January 2009, 10:15

    I thought the track they used between 95-98 was quite good, 98 was a good race, where shcumacher barged past coulthard to take the lead and there were a couple of good corners, 1 in paticular, the 1 on the back straight just before the last corner, flat out right hander(i think anyway) always looked good on tv.

    i agree with jose though, f1 venues seem to be following where the money is, governments unwilling to help support a GP find theirs under threat, perfect examples being The british gp, the us gp, and the french gp.

  7. @ ajokay

    YES Bring it back to South Africa.. Please… We really want one again. We are hosting the World Superbikes again this year at Kyalami as well as A1 GP… Why cant we get F1 here again. Please Bernie…

  8. Keith: “The truncated track they used from 1995-8 was, and I’m being very kind here, rubbish.”
    – Exactly. Like they were saying back then – it was a go-kart track not suited for F1; too twisty and narrow w/o any straights for overtaking. Plus, the asphalt was a ruin.

    “the first place that Ralf Schumacher showed his true brilliance and pedigree… colliding with Jordan team-mate Fisi at the first corner.”
    – Haha, so true.

  9. What about a re-enter of A1 GP, magnificent track. Also Austria has a long pressence in F1 with G. Berger, A. Wurz which I think he could be a WC winner easily in a good and suitable(due to his height) car and now with RED BULL and Toro Rosso they are back again, so why not?
    Also SOuth Africa has a great level of development these years due to the host of world cup in 2010, a comeback in F1 will open again some doors to black sponsorship. L. Hamilton would be the best “ambassador” of F1 in Africa.

    1. I’m sorry but the A1 Circuit in Austria will probably never again host a F1 race. Red Bull boss Mateschitz wanted to buy the circuit years ago, had great plans with the track and wanted to invest hundreds of million euros.

      But there was a political dispute and Mateschitz along with some other investors dropped the project. Unluckily Mateschitz has started to demolish the “old” track and so the hole site was a ruin now for years.

      They started to rebuild the track in autumn, but there won’t be made any further investments, although Mateschitz is spending at least some money in rebuilding the old A1 circuit.

      But the standards at the track will not fit the high standards a F1 host has to fulfill. They are going to try to get a DTM race in 2011, but that’s all.

      I feel very sorry about that, because I am Austrian and my country has such a long tradition in F1….

  10. IM really surprised with this issue :) im glad you’re writing things about my country.

    A couple of things tho…

    Peron’s goverment was not a dictatorship :).

    The big loop you refer is not dead. It’s still used. All touring cars series race more than once at Buenos Aires track over the season. Even Jaques Villeneuve was invited to compete here in a V8Supercars-like series at the big loop. He finished quite badly as it was raining a lot, but he loved the idea of racing in a circuit his father used.

    There are many videos on youtube, i’ll post some here.

    The Potrero de los Funes circuit, by the way, is qualified to host everything except F1 because of its pits facilities. HTey are thinking the idea of constructing new ones that would apply to host a F1 race, but the money needed is incredible and there are several things to do before hosting a F1 race again :P. No motorsport journalist is hoping that to happen actually, as it would be so difficult and idiotic really.

    I guess WTCC is going to be hte next international racing we’ll see around Argentina. Appart from the usual WRC race, and now the FIA GT and Dakar race, i can’t think about any other major race car series coming. World financial crisis and the big problems we have don’t help at all :)

    PD: HERE THE VIDEOS. Post them, im sure many would like to watch them :).
    3.- (racing speed)

  11. It would be difficult to have an Argentine GP, Bernie would bankrupt the country. I doubt that he would appretiate the beauty of the Potrero track.

    In a better future, with much lower costs, there could be the possibility of South Africa and Austria – this is real F1 history. I would love to see a GP there, specially in South Africa. That would be so exciting.

    There should be more respect for the integrity of historic race tracks. Present – day F1 mutilates these tracks on the mistaken belief that it is better for TV : it is the contrary – all those shortened tracks are much more dull to to look at. The curves are all the same, etc you cant distinguish one track from another.

  12. I am Argentinian and it really makes me proud to see this kind of article in such an importante F1 site.

    I would really love to see a F1 Grand Prix in Argentina and obviously an Argentinian driver.. hopefully sometime in my life.

    Our last hope was Jose Maria “Pechito” Lopez, I believe he was testing with Renault last year.. but he couldnt make it.

    Every year I go to Sao Paulo so imagine how nice it would be to have it in Buenos Aires :)

    1. such an importante F1 site

      I’m very flattered! Thanks :-)

      Our last hope was Jose Maria “Pechito” Lopez

      Yes, he does seem to have dropped off the radar I’m afraid.

  13. my comment was not posted :'(…

    1. Sorry mate – have had a look in the spam filter and the moderation queue but there doesn’t seem to be anything there :-(

    2. i coulnd’t see it until now… it’s posted now, but it took big time to appear on scene :P

  14. I’d love to see the Argentinian Grand Prix return. Argentina is such a great country, it needs a gp, the americas need more, there should be Canada, USA, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. The americas is so needed in F1. That san luis circuit looks perfect for F1, An F1 race there would be brilliant!

  15. This is a very interesting series about F1 lost nations, hopefully there will be others like Mexico, even Tunez ( ! ) I think, or was it Morocco ?
    Maybe even some Youtube links can be suggested, or better yet we commentators should contribute them

  16. 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.

  17. 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

  18. 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…

    1. 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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