- June 25, 1949
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- Ferrari McLaren,Renault,,Theodore,Talbot,Team Haas,Team Surtees
Patrick Tambay is a former French racing driver, who participated in 123 Formula One Grand Prix races between 1977 and 1986, with seven teams, winning two races and taking eleven podiums. Except Formula One, he competed in many other single-seater series, winning two Can-Am titles in 1977 and 1980.
Successful skier became racing driver
Patrick Daniel Tambay was born on June 25, 1949, in Paris. After a successful teenage years in the alpine skiing and water skiing, Patrick started to race in 1972, entering both French and European Formula Renault. In 1973, he was close to winning the European title, collecting the same amount of points as Rene Arnoux, but Arnoux was the champion because of more victories. In 1974, Tambay moved to the European Formula 2, competing for the Ecurie Elf in the BMW-powered Alpine A367. He finished seventh in the points.
In 1975, he switched to BMW-powered March 752 and finished third in the Formula 2 standings. In the 1976 European Formula 2 season, Tambay was second again, this time with Renault-powered Martini MK19.
Le Mans debut with Renault Alpine A442
During the season, he had a one-off appearance in the North American Formula 5000 championship, driving Lola T332 (Chevrolet) for Theodore Racing. Tambay also debuted at 24 hours of Le Mans. He was a part of Renault Sport's crew in the #19 Renault Alpine A442, together with Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Jose Dolhem. Although started from pole, they didn't finish the race.
Tambay was the 1977 Can-Am champion
After three seasons in Formula 2, Tambay's main competition in 1977 was the SCCA Canadian-American Challenge Cup (Can-Am). He joined Haas-Hall Racing to drive Lola T333CS-Chevrolet. With six wins in nine races, Tambay dominantly took the title.
In June 1977, Tambay returned to Le Mans, again as a part of the Equipe Renault Elf, and again with Renault Alpine A442. His co-driver was Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, they retired after 158 laps.
Disappointing Formula One debut
On July 3, 1977, Tambay tried to qualify for Formula One French Grand Prix, driving the Surtees T19, but he failed. In the next event, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Tambay joined Theodore Racing and qualified 10th with #23 Cosworth-powered Ensign N177. In the race, he retired after just three laps due to electrical issues.
First F1 championship point at German Grand Prix
Tambay's third attempt was much more successful and he finished sixth at German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring, earning his first point in the Formula One championship. Later in the season. Patrick retired three more times (Austria, Italy, Japan), failed to qualify once (United States, Watkins Glen) and finished fifth two times (Netherland, Canada). With fifth points, he was classified 18th in his F1 debut season. It was a good result, considering that he missed half of the season.
Two seasons with McLaren
Such a good performance earned him a place in the big team, so he joined McLaren to drive the #8 McLaren M26-Cosworth. His teammate was James Hunt. Tambay scored one point in his debut with McLaren, at Argentine Grand Prix. He was among points scorers four more times (Sweden, UK, Italy and USA/Watkins Glen) to finish 14th in the final classification, one place behind teammate Hunt, who also had eight points.
Tambay spent one more season with McLaren, alongside new teammate John Watson. Tambay changed three cars through the 1979 season and missed to score any point, with eight retirements and two failed qualifications. Of five races he finished, the best result was 7th place at British Grand Prix.
One more Can-Am title in 1980
In 1980, Tambay returned to America and rejoined Carl Haas' team in the Can-Am Challenge. Same as three years before, he was a dominant driver and took six wins in nine races. The victorious car was Lola T530 (Chevrolet).
F1 return with Theodore Racing
In 1981 Formula One season, Tambay rejoined Theodore Racing and scored one point, finishing sixth in the season-opening United States Grand Prix West at Long Beach. It remained his best result in 1981. After seven races with Theodore Racing, Patrick joined Ligier for the remainder of the season. His teammate Jacques Laffite was successful in the Matra-powered Ligier JS17 and he finished fourth in the championship with two wins. On the other side, Tambay had no luck with the same car, he retired in all eight races he started.
Third retirement at Le Mans
In July 1981, Tambay participated for the third time at Le Mans 24-hour race. He partnered Henri Pescarolo in the #26 Jean Rondeau's prototype Rondeau M379C. They were fourth on the starting grid but retired after just 41 laps.
Villeneuve's death changed Tambay's career
After a disappointing 1981 season, Tambay was without a seat in 1982. All changed after the death of his close friend Gilles Villeneuve, on May 8 at Circuit Zolder. After Gilles' death, Tambay hosted Villeneuve's family at his home in Switzerland and mentored Jacques, who is also his godson.
Maiden F1 victory for Patrick and title for Ferrari
As Villeneuve was Ferrari driver, Tambay soon gets an offer to join the Italian team from the ninth round of the championship, in July at Zandvoort. Tambay finished 8thin his Ferrari debut. In the next race, the British Grand Prix, Tambay scored his maiden F1 podium, finishing third behind McLaren's Niki Lauda and teammate Didier Pironi. Three weeks later, during qualifying for German Grand Prix, Pironi had an accident which ended his career. Tambay was a fifth fastest qualifier and he managed to win his first Formula One race.
Later in the season, Tambay finished fourth at Austrian Grand Prix and second at Italian Grand Prix, securing enough points for Scuderia Ferrari to take manufacturers' title, in the season when the team lost two main drivers.
Emotional victory at Imola
For 1983, Tambay was chosen to drive the #27 Ferrari, alongside old friend and rival Rene Arnoux in the #28 car. They won four races (Arnoux three, Tambay one) to secure one more manufacturers' title for Ferrari.
The drivers' champion was Brabham's Nelson Piquet, Arnoux and Tambay finished third and fourth respectively. It was Tambay's career-best F1 season, with four pole positions, one victory and four more podiums. His second Formula One victory came on May 1 at Imola. In front of delighted Ferrari fans, he dedicated the victory to Gilles Villeneuve. Later in the season, he finished second two times (Spa, Zandvoort) and third two times (Montreal, Silverstone).
Two F1 seasons with Renault
In 1984, the Italian team replaced Tambay with Italian driver (Michele Alboreto), so the Frenchman Tambay moved to the French team – Equipe Renault Elf. His teammate was Derek Warwick. The highlight of the season was the French Gran Prix at Dijon on May 20. Tambay took pole position and finished second, behind Niki Lauda. In the 15-race season, Tambay scored points just four times, to finish 11th in the final classification.
In 1985, still with Renault, Patrick scored two more podiums, finishing third in Portugal and San Marino. In the championship classification, he was 12th.
Last Formula One season with Haas
The season 1986 was the last for Tambay in Formula One. He was driving for his old boss Carl Haas and his Haas-Lola F1 team. Tambay missed two rounds of the championship. At the Canadian Grand Prix in June, he was injured in the accident during the pre-race warm up. He wasn't recovered for the next race, the Detroit Grand Prix, so Eddie Cheever stepped into his car. In the rest of the season, Tambay scored his last F1 points at Austrian Grand Prix, finishing fifth.
Two podium finishes at Paris - Dakar Rally
After leaving Formula One, Tambay stayed involved in racing by entering the famous Paris - Dakar Rally for three years in a row. He debuted in 1987, together with co-driver Dominique Lemoyne. They won one stage. In 1988, Tambay was one of the favorites for the victory, he finished third overall with Range Rover. In 1989 edition of the rally, Tambay was back with Mitsubishi Pajero and he again finished third. In 1991, he returned to the Dakar Rally with Lada.
Full season in the Jaguar XJR-9
The season 1989 was the year of Tambay's comeback to the circuit racing, as he joined Jaguar for the World Sports Prototype Championship campaign. He debuted with Jaguar XJR-9 at 24 hours of Daytona, sharing the car with Derek Bell and Martin Donnelly. They retired after an accident. In the 1989 World Sports Prototype Championship, Tambay scored only one podium in seven races, finishing second at Jarama, to take eighth place in the final standings.
Fourth place at Le Mans with Jaguar
At 1989 24 hours of Le Mans, Tambay's car was the #1 Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-9 LM. His co-drivers were Jan Lammers and Andrew Gilbert-Scott. In the last Le Mans race on the Circuit de la Sarthe without chicanes at Mulsanne Straight, the #1 Jaguar finished fourth overall, the best of all Jaguars.
Unsuccessful Le Mans attempt with Bugatti
After a season with Jaguar, Tambay finally retired from circuit racing. In 1994, he was one of the shareholders of the Larrousse F1 team, in its last season. Following the withdrawal of the team, Tambay again had some attempts in the sports prototype racing. In 1995, he participated in IMSA GT race at Watkins Glen, driving the Bugatti EB110 SC for Monaco Racing Team. In 1996, he failed to qualify for 24 hours of Le Mans, again driving the Bugatti.
F1 veterans again on the race track
Tambay's next appearance on the race track was in 2005, when he entered the short-lived GP Masters series, together with other retired F1 drivers. He participated in one race in 2005 and two races in 2006 season.
Besides racing, Tambay also worked in the media, as a consultant and commentator. His first job was in 1991, commenting Formula Ona race at La Cinq channel. From 1997 to 2001, he commented races for Canal Satellite group. He joined RMC (Radio Monte-Carlo) in 2002, to comment F1 races. Since 1995, Patrick Tambay was involved into politics as a deputy mayor of Le Cannet. He later expanded his political activities to whole Maritime Alps county.
Patrick was married twice. In 1991, he gets a son Adrien, who followed father's footsteps and became the racing driver. Adrien is currently Audi's DTM driver.