• United States Grand Prix West

Villeneuve beats Scheckter again at Long Beach

ESPNF1 Staff
April 8, 1979
Jody Scheckter had to settle for second place to his team-mate once again © Sutton Images

Gilles Villeneuve won the United States Grand Prix at Long Beach - his second successive victory and one which took him two points ahead of Jacques Lafitte in the drivers' championship - but it was a day of confusion and controversy. In between the two victories he had also won the prestigious non-championship Race of Champions at Brands Hatch.

Villeneuve's successes had fuelled speculation that he was the preferred Ferrari driver and not Jody Scheckter, and the team issued a statement that the pair would fight it out. "The team was supposed to consist of me and this Canadian kid," Scheckter said. "I was supposed to do all the winning. He was supposed to watch me and learn."

Both Renaults failed to make the start after drive shaft failures during practice, and then the start of the grand prix itself was close to chaos. On the warm-up lap the dummy grid got scrambled, Lafitte's Ligier suffered a transmission failure and had to be towed back to the pits, and then Carlos Reutemann suffered electrical problems in his McLaren which cost him his front row place.

As the cars eventually started, Reutemann disobeyed marshals and joined before he should have while Villeneuve made a jump start. To general bemusement the stewards opted to fine the pair rather than impose time penalties.

On the first lap there was a pile-up which eliminated Niki Lauda and Patrick Tambay, allowing Villeneuve to build a commanding lead over the Tyrrell of Jean-Pierre Jarier. Jarier proved Villeneuve's best ally as he was almost impossible to pass, allowing the Ferrari to move further and further clear.

Five cars did eventually force a way past, but none managed to seriously threaten the Ferrari 1-2 as Scheckter settled in to a defensive second place. Jarier had no sooner returned to the pits at the end of the race than he was confronted by a fuming Patrick Depailler who harangued him for his blocking tactics.

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