Patrick Tambay

RJ: I’m not going to ask you any questions about your Formula 1 career

PT: (laughing) Good!

RJ: I’m going to go off in a different direction – of all the Masters drivers, you’ve probably been away from racing competitively the longest. What do you feel have been the major differences between driving back then and driving now?

PT: Well, er, electronics – the steering wheel is totally different, for a start, the gearbox too, where you change gear by the steering wheel – I’ve never used that before – and the aerodynamics. It’s so efficient and successful, but it’s such a big change. Some of it is still precisely the same, but there are a lot of changes electronically, but good, I think.

RJ: Why did you did stop competitive racing, because you stopped comparatively early, just a few years after Formula 1?

PT: Well, at the end of 1986, I stopped because the team (Beatrice-Haas Lola) got sold and Carl Haas (team owner) didn’t want to continue in Formula 1 and I didn’t have any good drives lined up for the following year. I decided to stay involved – I did a bit of testing, because I felt that I wanted to come back to Formula 1 in 1989 (with Ligier) but there was problems with the engines and I was fed up of driving stupid cars and I didn’t really have many options to carry on racing at that level, so I stopped with F1.

RJ: Yeah, and you had a spell in sportscars for a short while before stopping altogether..

PT: Yeah, I went to sportscars in 1989 in order to get back into the groove, with Jaguar, but then after a while.. I didn’t get the rhythm again, you know, and I felt that.. well, like I just don’t care anymore and stopped.

RJ: You’ve recently returned to racing, obviously with the GPM, but you’ve also tried to make a return to endurance racing. Why did you decide to come back?

PT: Well, I felt I cared enough to come back. There was an opportunity to come back with a GT team (Scuderia Cavallino), which never came about, unfortunately, but yes, I really wanted to do something.

RJ: Would you like another opportunity to try out GT’s in the future?

PT: (enthusiastically) Oh yeah! Driving the Aston Martins or something similar would be a fabulous drive – wonderful car.

RJ: You left F1 quite some time ago.. do you think drivers have more options now when their F1 career is over, or do you think there were more opportunities back then – taking money and grid size into account?

PT: I still think there’s plenty of options today, GT’s, touring cars, DTM, ELMS, BTCC, WTCC, Japanese Championships.. plenty of options.. and that’s lucky, actually, because there’s only about 26 (drivers) in Formula 1, whereas there were plenty more drivers chasing deals at that time – what – about 30-32 wasn’t it? There’s also plenty of good, professional racing going on and that’s good. I’ve got my fingers crossed that all goes well for them and they get the opportunities.

RJ: Finally, obviously you now do TV, which a lot of people now know you for, but also you’re involved in.. is it a mayoral role in Le Cannet?

PT: After being in sportscars, I’ve been commentating for… (smiles) it’s been a long time.. I have more races in Formula 1 behind the microphone then I do behind the steering wheel, probably altogether, about 350 races as a commentator, 114 behind the wheel. That’s a bit of a strange feeling, but it’s very enjoyable. Luckily, I am involved in the local community at Le Cannet – I’m assistant to a mayor, I’m not THE mayor, a assistant to the mayor, there’s 42,000 people in our community , and I’m also concierge for the department of tourism, and I’m in charge of the transport and other departments there.

RJ: What is it you find so interesting about this role?

PT: Well.. I feel I owe a lot to my community, I enjoy it there. It’s nice to have a job where I have to be of some help and that I can do my citizen’s work and the opportunity presented itself and I said “yes, I’m going to do it” and I love to help people in my constituency, help their lives a little bit. It’s a great life experience for me and a great responsibility to undertake and it’s good for the community and it’s nice to give something back to them, good for the sport as well, I root for the college teams and also I go to the colleges and teach the youngsters about road safety and give them the benefits of my experience. But the community’s problems don’t get any easier, and therefore it needs more dedicated people involved, which is why I’m there, and they’ve got a really good programme for improvement.

Interview conducted by Richard Jenkins on the 12th August 2006 at the GPM event at Silverstone. Thanks to Patrick for his time, friendliness and fluency in English.