Early in his career, Tambay was a part of Formula 5000 with the team run by Carl Haas.

In 1977, winning the Can Am championship with Haas, Tambay debuted in Formula One on a one-off basis with Surtees, driving in only one session at the 1977 French Grand Prix before spending the rest of the season with Theodore. The team, in collaboration with Ensign, was running their N177 chassis. The showings proved fruitful as he moved to McLaren to race Formula One full-time for the 1978 and 1979 seasons. In 1980, he returned to Can Am with the Lola team run by Carl Haas, immediately winning early in the season and then winning his second Can-Am championship.

In 1981 he returned to F1, first driving for the Theodore team then finishing the season with Ligier. In 1982, he was offered a place with the Scuderia Ferrari after the death of his close friend Gilles Villeneuve. He won his first Grand Prix at the German Grand Prix that year after Didier Pironi was injured in practice. The German GP was just his fourth race for the Maranello based team. He took his second and last Grand Prix win in 1983 at Imola, in a very emotional victory in front of the Italian faithful when he drove the #27 Ferrari (the car number of Villeneuve) to the win after Riccardo Patrese crashed out of the lead with only 6 laps to go. He was dropped by the team in 1984 in favor of Italian Michele Alboreto. Tambay moved to Renault, and then spent a year reunited with his old boss Carl Haas racing in the Haas Lola F1 team.

Activity: 1977 - 1986
Grand Prix: 123
Drivers Championships: -
Victories: 2
Podiums: 11
Pole Positions: 5
Fastest Laps: 2
Career Points: 103