EFF ONE

Landing at glitzy Luton Airport at one o'clock in the morning on the Monday after the Monaco Grand Prix, after my flight was delayed three hours, rather took the edge off the glamour of my weekend in Monte Carlo. After a few days living in an environment crawling with millionaires when you yourself are a pauper it is rather a bump when you come down to earth with Easyjet.

My work was by then well overdue and unpacking my belongings raised more questions than there were answers. It had been a weekend of excess and over-indulgence. There were the usual phone numbers of exotic-sounding women, scrawled on the back of over-priced drinks bills. The big mystery was to be found in the pocket of my suit from where I recovered what they call "a bra-expander". For those of you with no knowledge of these things, this device is a Velcro and clip arrangement which is used to increase the size and capabilities of a bra strap. It is particularly popular with women who have spent a small fortune having their small breasts enlarged only to find they've forgotten to put enough cash aside to pay for new bras.

Although I have no memory of how I acquired this item, I am vaguely aware of having seen a lot of underwear at the Grand Prix Ball on Friday night where the well-known British "actress" Amanda Holden seemed particularly keen to let everyone on the dance floor see that her Versace dress came with matching Versace knickers. This worrying trend, pioneered by self-publicist Liz Hurley, has fortunately not been emulated by men. Can you imagine if we decided to have underpants which matched our Saville Row suits and to strut our stuff with our flies undone.

The Ball raises huge amounts of money for charity, most of it bid by drunken millionaire investment bankers, all keen to outdo one another. Retired F1 driver Eddie Irvine came up on stage to announce he was auctioning off a week on "Anaconda", his yacht. Having had first hand experience of some of the excesses committed on this floating gin palace, my advice to the winning bidder is to take a clean set of bed linen and a supply of antibiotics.

Having impressed everyone by turning up in a monumental new Maybach limousine at Imola, Formula One's lord and master Bernie Ecclestone went one better in Monaco. Slap bang in the middle of the Piazza del Poseur, a space in the center of the paddock, was one of the very latest Rolls Royce creations, resplendent with huge tractor-like wheels and a revolting gold color scheme. I was in the middle of filming this wonderful machine when Mr. E himself turned up and climbed into the back. The leather seats in this machine are so generously upholstered that as soon as he sat back Bernie disappeared from view.

The Rolls Royce played an important role at one point during the weekend when a Mercedes executive flew in from Stuttgart and needed to be picked up from the airport. Bernie, being the generous soul that he is, instructed that this monstrous machine to be sent to pick up the man in question. He was in a hurry and jumped into the car, thinking no doubt that it was a Maybach (a brand owned by Mercedes-Benz) but was somewhat embarrassed when he arrived outside the McLaren-Mercedes motorhome in the Piazza del Poseur and realized that he was climbing out of a Rolls Royce, a car company now owned by Mercedes-Benz rival BMW.

Mr. E did not seem too worried about this and remarked that he did not understand why the gentleman in question was worried about such a thing because, as the car manufacturers in F1 keep telling everyone, they are completely united...

Jaguar had a promotion on in Monaco involving some sort of massive pink diamond. To publicize the event the team had painted the leaping Jaguars on the rear bodywork of the cars in the same color. You would think the obvious comedy allusion to the Pink Panther might have made them think again. Thinking however was clearly not on the agenda as far as this deal was concerned. Everyone who turned up at the event was given a key and asked to try to open a box. The person with the key that turned the lock would win a diamond necklace.

And guess what? The winner was a lady called Helen Stewart and if that name rings a bell, it is because she is the wife of Sir Jackie Stewart, F1's tartan-encrusted oracle.

You either believe it was all a fix (which of course is most unlikely) or you have to ask yourself why the Jaguar crew was stupid enough to allow anyone with the remotest connection to the team to have a key.

Mark Webber seemed happy enough to turn up and it dawned on me that, as a true Ocker Australian, he must have confused the name of the event with the chance to down some amber nectar when someone said "You have to go for de Beers".

If you wish to hear more about my weekend in Monaco, so would I. The five days in Monaco seemed to merge into one endless round of yacht-hopping and analgesic-popping. Anyone who has news of my whereabouts during this period is invited to contact grandprix.com. In particular I would like to know more about the bra expander (as would Mrs. Eff).

By race day, however, I had emerged from my lost weekend and what a good race we had to watch. And what a sweet result for Williams. In recent weeks BMW has given Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head such a hard time, in that charming Germanic way which they have. It was nice to see the team doing so well on a race track where brute horsepower counts for much less than it does at other tracks; where traction-control means that the engines are rarely running on all 10 cylinders and where a well-balanced chassis that is kind to its tires and easy on its drivers is the thing to have. And of course where a team needs to have an impeccable organization. No wonder Frank and Patrick were all smiles on Sunday night.

And so we move on to Canada where some of the French journalists are worried that we will all die of SARS. So worried are they, in fact, that they mentioned their concerns to FIA President Max Mosley who told them, in a gentle and caring fashion, that they were more likely to be killed in a car crash travelling from the airport to downtown Montreal than they are by contracting the SARS virus.

Mr. Mosley, incidentally, is not planning to attend the Canadian Grand Prix.

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