Pandora: Christmas is the pits for F1 team

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The Independent Online

First the housing market, then the banks, and then Donald Trump's fortune.

Now it seems, the credit crunch is taking its toll on the world of Formula One.

While McLaren celebrates a grand prix windfall in the impressive form of Lewis Hamilton's £13m prize money, the financial state of its rivals appears somewhat less rosy.

I hear that Honda Racing's head honcho Nick Fry has been forced to abandon the team's annual media lunch following 11th-hour concerns over how much it would have cost.

The event, at which around 40 guests were expected, has been one of the highlights of the motor racing calendar for almost a decade and was due to go ahead this afternoon at Raymond Blanc's swish Oxfordshire restaurant Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons.

But instead, I'm told that Fry was forced to email his guests late on Monday evening, apologising profusely for the inconvenience and blaming "severe economic pressure" for the change of plans.

"Honda, like others, has been forced to put production on short-time," he explained.

"In light of this we do not think it would be appropriate to continue with our lunch."

Jade joins the press pack

Further to my story that Kate Beckinsale is warming to the press, news of another rapprochement between the famous and the fourth estate.

Model Jade Parfitt tells me she is trying her hand as a gossip hound after opting for journa-lism as a second career.

The leggy blonde has been snapped up by Vogue TV and claims that, despite working for no salary, her luck has so far been rather good.

"The first person I ever had to interview was Julia Roberts," she boasted during The Shop at Bluebird's party for Distill magazine.

"And the next was George Clooney. David and Victoria Beckham turned up too.

"I am out there in the cold on the red carpet, winging it with a film crew, screaming 'David! Victoria!' It certainly raised a few eyebrows."

Henry's dead set on change

Enterprising as ever, Henry Conway is planning a move into interiors. The flamboyant son of Tory MP Derek Conway claims he is considering taking a break from knitting to concentrate on interior design, perhaps even penning a new book.

"Nothing too controversial," he cautions – though it seems we can expect plenty of fur throws. "Dead things are so much more chic," he explains.

Let's hope he doesn't mind some competition: Not long ago Rod Stewart's socialite daughter Kimberly told me she planned to do the exact same thing.

Cesr came, saw, but no more

Nancy Dell'olio set the rumour mill in action by arriving at Monday night's launch of the DVD A Tribute To Pavarotti, One Amazing Weekend In Petra with a new man in tow.

Resplendent in black and gold, the vampish former girlfriend of Sven-Goran Eriksson stayed close to lawyer Marco De Cesr throughout the evening, though her publicist insists the date was strictly PG13.

"He's just one of her many male friends, there's no established relationship," she says.

Drinking from the same pitcher?

The Liberal Democrats' shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Don Foster has declared war on the "outrageously" expensive booze sold at Premiership clubs. He'll please football fans, though Pandora can't help but wonder how it will sit with his party. After all, only a month ago Nick Clegg backed a minimum price for alcohol, to prevent "horrendous" binge-drinking.

Festive exaggeration

"What a lovely Christmas present," declares the Association of Former MPs' newsletter. "Take your family to Parliament and dine in the beautiful Portcullis House."

On offer is a festive meal amidst the "lavish lime trees and shimmering water features" of the atrium.

Not everyone is impressed, however. "Don't they mean amidst the leaks and incessant building works?" asks one staff member.