The former McLaren, Renault and Ferrari driver Patrick Tambay, has died at the age of seventy-three. The Frenchman who had been suffering for Parkinson’s disease and diabetes death was announced via the AFP news agency on Sunday afternoon.
Tambay raced in F1 for a decade between 1977 and 1987, he made his debut at the French Grand Prix in 1977 with Surtees but failed to qualify, before switching to Theodore Racing for the second half of the season.
He then joined McLaren for his first full season in 1978 with his best result being fourth, before being lured to Ferrari mid-way through the 1982 season after the death of Gilles Villeneuve at Zolder during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix. At his second race for the Scuderia, he was on the podium and took his first win weeks later at the Nürburgring.
The careers of Tambay and his friend Villeneuve intertwined, while the Canadian went to new heights at the start of the 1980s Tambay’s career had stalled. he returned to struggling Theodore for 1980 and then finished the second half of 1981 with a move to Ligier.
In 1982, his time in F1 seemed to be over, but when Villeneuve was killed in a horrific crash in qualifying at the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix, Ferrari turned to Tambay as his replacement. Tambay made his debut for the team at the Dutch Grand Prix alongside Pironi, whose victory at Zandvoort confirmed his status as a championship favourite.
At the German Grand Prix, in a very similar accident to Villeneuve during qualifying, Pironi suffered a career-ending crash. Tambay would the next day take his maiden win for Ferrari, before sealing his place in the heart of Ferrari at Imola in 1983. He took Ferrari’s first win at what is now the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.
Tabays victory, followed the race leader the Brabham of Ricciardo Patrese crashing out in the closing stages. Tambay and team-mate Rene Arnoux were title contenders that year but both lost out to eventual champion Nelson Piquet of Brabham and Prost at Renault.
when Ferrari signed Michele Alboreto alongside Arnoux for 1984, Tambay moved to Renault for two years. The team, who had just fired Prost after they failed to win the 1983 title together, were beginning a decline.
He failed to win along with teammate Derek Warwick though he did take pole at Paul Ricard. Tanbay then joined Haas, unconnected to the current Haas team, for 1986 their collapse seeming ending his career.
After a two-year break, he returned to motorsport in 1989 finishing fourth at Le Mans in the top three of the Dakar Rally twice.
Tambay was also godfather to Villeneuve’s son Jacques, and was involved in his racing development in a career in which he won the 1995 IndyCar title and Indianapolis 500, and then the F1 world championship with Williams in 1997.
He would return to F1 racing in the short-lived Grand Prix Masters, making three starts at 2005 South African Grand Prix and the 2006 Qatar and British Grands Prix, finishing eleventh in all three races.
After retiring from full-time racing, Tambay worked as a commentator for French television. He also served as the deputy mayor of Le Cannet, a suburb of Cannes. He also had a son Adrien who raced in sportscars.