I had not been to the Monaco Grand Prix since the early 1990s and it seems to have become a lot livelier than I remember. Back then I was staying on a friend’s 1930s motor yacht, which was moored in Menton. It was an idyllic visit and as I recall we would take the boat into the bay in front of Monte Carlo, where – with the noise of the cars echoing off the cliff-like crags behind this Mediterranean Hong Kong like some very loud and angry wasps – we would have lunch, drink a fair few curvaceous bottles of Provençal rosé, smoke a cigar, swim, snooze and return to port, to repeat the following day.
Indeed, snoozing was to become part of my F1 ritual. I remember once being at Monza, where taking a light nap shortly after the start of the race, I opened my eyes to find myself surrounded by a crowd of concerned onlookers. Similarly, in Shanghai in 2008 I decided to take an alfresco nap on a bench after lunch in the Ferrari team’s restaurant, arranging a copy of Finch’s Quarterly Review over my face. When I awoke, I was told that I had been filmed sleeping and that these images had been broadcast on giant screens around the course and, for all I know, the entire length of China.
However, on this occasion I did not get much sleep because I was kept rather busy. I had been invited at the last minute to interview Cara Delevingne. You might recall that I met Miss Delevingne in January, when I juggled the roles of press conference MC and lion tamer during the announcement of her association with Tag Heuer (see Swellboy passim).
Things move more swiftly in the world of Miss Delevingne than they do in the sleepy, tranquil backwater that is Swellboy Country (like Marlboro Country only with suits and cigars rather than Stetsons and cigarettes), and Cara now seems to be a full-time actress with little time for modelling. She had come from the Cannes Festival and was about to go back to Canada, where she is currently shooting a film. For a 22-year-old woman in possession of what I imagine is a considerable fortune and that even more valuable commodity of worldwide fame, she is remarkably together (had I enjoyed such a combination aged 22, I would have been dead aged 23). She kept us amused with stories such as dressing up in a hotdog costume and garlanding herself with fake bananas in Charlotte, North Carolina… even though this was not required by the role in the film she was making.
I felt I owed myself a little nap after such an invigorating interview, but I barely had time to change into my suit before a rather brisk photocall with Cara, Fernando Alonso and Jean-Claude Biver. The woman who was compering this media happening seemed to be somewhat nonplussed by the arrival of a giant wheel of Swiss cheese (an axiom of any event presided over by Jean-Claude) and the distribution of Swiss cowherd shirts to both the two-time F1 champion and the quondam model-turned actress. All I can say is that she was lucky there wasn’t a lion splashing about in the Jacuzzi – I don’t think I have mentioned that all this was taking place on the main deck of a five-storey cruise ship, renamed the HMS Tag Heuer for the weekend, moored in the harbour of Monaco.
One might have thought that I could have sneaked off for a little rest after the cheese had been sliced and distributed, but I have a weakness for the Biver cheese and I was nibbling away at the stuff when Mark Ronson started playing some records. As it happens, I was not entirely ignorant of the body of work of this talented disc jockey and music producer. A suit that had been made by Edward Sexton for his wedding had been one of the exhibits at my Washington exhibition, and I was rather taken with a lightweight blazer with mother-of-pearl buttons by Richard James that he was wearing for what I believe is known as his “set”.
He really knew what he was doing and soon almost everyone was dancing unselfconsciously as if it were late at night at his or her favourite nightclub – an impressive achievement considering it was an open-air event during the hours of daylight, the rays of the sinking sun still glinting off the polished hulls of the superyachts all around us. He seemed able to gauge the emotional response of the crowd perfectly and give them the music they needed… It was so impressive to watch that I decided against an early night and set fire to a Cohiba 1966 instead.
For more media-circus madness, read the account of Swellboy’s January jaunt with Cara Delevingne.