Formula 1 | Death of Patrick Tambay, winner of two Grands Prix with Ferrari

Driver of the 1980s, Patrick Tambay, whose death at 73 was announced on Sunday, is one of the rare French people to have had the privilege of driving a Ferrari in Formula 1 and winning at the wheel of one of the legendary cars red.

Two Grand Prix victories, on two legendary circuits, Hockenheim in 1982 and Imola in 1983. Enough to leave a lasting mark in the prize lists where only five other French winners appear for the prestigious Scuderia (Maurice Trintignant, Jean Alesi, Didier Pironi, René Arnoux and Alain Prost), even if the rest of his late passage in F1 was less significant.

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“We are all truly saddened by the announcement of the death of Patrick Tambay”reacted Ferrari on Twitter. “He was one of the real stars of the 80s, winning two races for the Scuderia and contributing to constructors’ titles in 1982 and 1983.”

Considered a “gentleman driver” with a pleasant physique and always pleasant, it was a fatal accident that led to his arrival at Ferrari, that of his good friend Gilles Villeneuve, who had asked him to be the godfather of his son Jacques. He replaced the Quebecer after his fatal accident in May 1982 during practice for the Belgian Grand Prix.

At the wheel of a top-level single-seater, for the first and last time in his career, Tambay is collecting podiums. He finished 7th in the world championship in 1982, 4th the following season, the best ranking of his career.

Tambay had above all won the hearts of the tifosi by putting a distraught Scuderia Ferrari back on track after the death of Gilles Villeneuve then the serious accident of Didier Pironi a few weeks later during the tests for the German Grand Prix. By winning the same Grand Prix, Tambay had averted the fate that beset Ferrari. He will dedicate it to Villeneuve, Pironi and Enzo Ferrari for trusting him. His second triumph the following year at Imola, very close to Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters, would definitively establish his popularity with Italian fans.

Voice of F1

He ran his first Grand Prix in Great Britain in 1977 in a Theodore Racing Ensign, when he had just turned 28. There were then two frustrating seasons at McLaren, in 1978 and 1979, a sabbatical and a return to Theodore, then Ligier, in 1981. Without great results.

After Ferrari, the harvest became meager again – three podiums and a pole position at Renault (1984-1985) and two points at Lola-Haas (1986) – and Tambay, like others before him, consoled himself in endurance, at Alpine-Renault and Jaguar, and in rally-raid, at Paris-Dakar (3rd in 1988 and 1989).

Eclectic, he had already been so at the start of his career, often winning in the American Can-Am series, contested by overpowered prototypes: 6 victories and the title in 1977, the same in 1980. Before the automobile, Patrick Tambay , born in 1949 in Paris, had skied competitively.

After his career, Tambay became one of the voices of F1, always precise, always interesting, at the microphones of Canal Plus, RMC, La Cinq or even Motors TV, a thematic channel founded with his friend Jean-Luc Roy. He had also become elected in the small town of Cannet (Alpes-Maritimes). First as a Sports Assistant from 1995, with footballer Christian Lopez and volleyball player Alain Fabiani in his team. Then as general and departmental councilor, elected in 2002, 2008 and 2015 under the colors of the Republicans.

Christian Estrosi, the former motorcycle champion who became mayor of Nice, underlines on Sunday that Tambay “was a committed elected official” who, in his new career “has put himself at the service of others. He has done a lot for sport and road safety”adds Estrosi, who had brought the French F1 GP back to the calendar.

Struck by Parkinson’s disease, Tambay had to slow down in recent years. But certain lulls in the illness allowed him to meet his friends for a coffee near the town hall of Le Cannet. And to smile while evoking his years at Ferrari.

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