Chapman, who understands drivers the way Angelo Dundee understands fighters, leaves Reutemann to brood alone, and Reutemann seems to be responding by exorcising himself of the erratic performances for which he is known. Last year he drove inconsistently for Ferrari, by whom he was less understood; Ferrari likes the fire to show in its drivers, but Reutemann has more ice than fire in his veins. Still, when he was good, he was very good, winning four races, second only to Andretti's six.
Adding to Andretti's frustration at Long Beach was the fact that things were going so smoothly for Reutemann during practice and qualifying. Despite the fact that Reutemann's and Andretti's Lotuses were twins, Andretti could not find the key to set up his car, for race cars are like snowflakes: no two are identical. "It's all just metal, and you think it should be the same, but it just isn't," Andretti lamented after qualifying, when he was sixth fastest.
Villeneuve, meanwhile, was bouncing about, his mood as buoyant as Mario's was cautious. Villeneuve is in a position that many drivers dream of—one he should appreciate, says Andretti. He is a Ferrari factory driver, who got there without really paying his dues—which is not the same as saying he doesn't deserve to be there. After only a few Formula One races, he was hired as a Ferrari team driver at the end of the 1977 season. But the pressures on him, like those on Andretti, are enormous, considering he is relatively untried, that he replaced a world champion ( Lauda), and last but not least, that the pressures of driving for Ferrari are always enormous. But Villeneuve seems remarkably well equipped to handle them.
Last year at Long Beach, when he was a rookie, he led his teammate (then Reutemann) and the race for 38 laps, until he tried to lap a car where there was no room to pass. He crashed, knocked himself out of the race and handed it to Reutemann. Before Sunday's race, he was asked how well he remembered that near miss, and if he would do anything different today. He smiled at the question, as he does at most references to his errors. "There is no safe place to pass at Long Beach," he replied. "It is best to stay in front all day."
Villeneuve has learned a lot since last year.