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Patrick Tambay


Team Haas USA Lola-Ford THL-2




1986 Austrian GP


Patrick Tambay's finest day in F1 came after filling the legendary No.27 Ferrari seat in which Gilles Villeneuve was propelled to his death. Up until then the Frenchman had been talent going to waste in poor machinery.

Tambay did manage to get himself noticed on quite a number of occasions, having the knack of making "shitbox" cars work for him. He did so on his first outings in the Theodore-run second Ensign in 1977, Patrick especially shining at Zandvoort where he passed and dived through to a magnificent 5th. He repeated the result at Mosport, outshining Ferrari debutant Villeneuve and getting signed for a full year in the second McLaren Teddy Mayer declined to offer to the frantic Canadian. In hindsight, Gilles was lucky the McLaren boss showed no interest since the team carried on with the outdated M26 and were nowhere in their title-defending year. For 1979, things became even worse with the all-new but ill-designed M28 and its follow-up versions, Tambay even having to revert back to the M26 on two occasions.

With McLaren totally bumming out on skirt design, Tambay left the team at the end of 1979 to return to his old CanAm habits, taking the title in a Haas-entered Lola. A 1981 season fragmented between Theodore and Ligier did nothing to improve his waning F1 reputation, and then out of the blue the Ferrari offer came. Patrick scored an emotional first victory at Hockenheim and went on to win another race and four poles for the Scuderia the following season. His move to Renault to replace the McLaren-bound Prost seemed a good decision at the time but the French factory had lost its way - as his team mate Derek Warwick was to find out as well.

After Renault Sport closed its doors at the end of 1985, Tambay's F1 career was apparently at a dead end. Then his former CanAm boss Carl Haas came to the rescue. The Indycar team owner had been keen on expanding to F1, and as Lola's premier Indy customer had claimed the rights to the Lola name for his European adventure. The all-American effort, with no ties to the British Lola factory, had joined the F1 circus at the end of 1985, having persuaded former champion Alan Jones to come out of retirement. For 1986, the team was planning an all-out attack, switching to more reliable Ford power. The two-car team sensibly picked its 1977 and 1980 CanAm champion to join its driving force. But the Neil Oatley-designed THL-2 wasn't up to the task sponsor Beatrice had set out, both drivers failing to reach the podium once. In Austria, the team scored its best result of the season, 'Jonesy' finishing 4th, followed home by Tambay. When the team pulled out at the end of the season, Jones and Tambay left F1 with it.