Former Formula One driver and serving Senator Carlos Alberto 'Lole' Reutemann has died at a private clinic in Santa Fe City, his family have confirmed.
The 79-year-old former governor of Santa Fe Province was hospitalised in Rosario back in May, after suffering an intestinal haemorrhage and had been in-and-out of hospital ever since with other health ailments.
The senator's daughter Cora confirmed the news with a post on social media. "Dad left in peace and dignity after fighting like a champion with a strong and noble heart that accompanied him to the end. I am proud and blessed for the father I had. I know that he will accompany me on every day of my life until we meet again in the Lord's house," she wrote.
Senators paid tribute to their colleague on Wednesday, halting proceedings to hold a minute’s silence.
In addition to testing positive for coronavirus, Reutemann was suffering from anaemia, dehydration, “hypoalbuminemia and haemodynamic instability," according to his last doctor's report, which was cited in local outlets on Wednesday afternoon.
He underwent surgery related to liver cancer in New York City in 2017 and had never quite managed to recover full health afterwards. He had been hospitalised at least twice for digestive haemorrhages over the past two months alone.
A sports star as well as politician, Reutemann was the most successful Argentine Formula One driver after Juan Manuel Fangio. He raced for Brabham, Ferrari, Lotus and Williams, collecting 12 victories and 45 podium finishes. In 1981, driving a Williams, he finished second in the world championship, one point behind Brazilian Nelson Piquet. He finished third in 1975, 1978 and 1980.
Perhaps his greatest year on the track was 1974, when he won a host of races in South Africa, Austria and the United States.
Introduced into politics by late Peronist president Carlos Menem (1989-1999), Reutemann was initially affiliated with the Justicialist Party (PJ) and served two terms as governor of the province of Santa Fe, an agricultural region in the Argentine pampas. He was elected to the national Senate in 2003. In 2015, he ran under the Cambiemos banner of former president Mauricio Macri. He was serving his fourth term.
Reutemann was also an important agricultural producer in the Santa Fe region, which is at the heart of Argentina's food industry.
"I regret the death of the national senator and former governor of Santa Fe, Carlos Reutemann. My condolences to his family and friends," Vice-President and head of the Senate, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, said in a post on social networks.
Mauricio Macri also paid tribute, expressing his sadness over the loss of the “idol.”
“Great sadness at Lole’s death. He was my idol as a racer, I followed him throughout his time in Formula 1. Then I was lucky enough to work side-by-side with him for the Argentina we dream of. I am sure that you will continuing helping us from heaven,” wrote the former president.