Pandora: Lewis parties while F1bosses sit and stew

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton chose to mark his victory in the Formula One championship on Sunday by staying in Sao Paulo after the Brazilian grand prix to celebrate with his family and his exotic paramour Nicole Scherzinger.

In hindsight, it may well have been one of the best tactical decisions Hamilton has made away from the track all season. For I am told that a number of F1's leading fromages, including the sport's head honcho, Bernie Ecclestone, and the Renault's flamboyant managing director, Flavio Briatore, made a mad dash to the city's airport to catch the British Airways midnight flight back to London.

By all accounts, it sounded like the journey from hell. "The plane ended up sitting on the tarmac for seven hours before eventually taking off," says a fellow passenger up in front of the curtain.

"As a result, the crew ran out of permitted flying time for their shift, which meant we then had to set down in Madrid to pick up a new crew.

"We were due to get into Heathrow at about midday on Monday. As it was, we didn't touch down in London until 9.20pm."

Ecclestone's office preferred not to speak about the saga yesterday. However, I'm sure the diminutive tycoon will have wished he had followed the example of Hamilton's boss, McLaren CEO Ron Dennis. I'm told he managed to hotfoot it back to Blighty on board a private jet.

Designs on Bond

It is not only the producersof the latest Bond film who are laughing all the way to the bank. The movie (UK box-office takings some £50m and rising) has also provided an unexpected boon for Kelly Hoppen.

The frizzy interior designer is reporting a boost in sales after a number of her furniture designs were used as props in 007's latest outing, Quantum Of Solace.

"I went to the Quantum Of Solace premiere last week and it was great to see my designs up on screen. It is the first time I've seen them used in a film," Hoppen tells me. "The response has been extraordinary – since it was released the phones in our shop have not stopped ringing."

Next we take Manhattan: Caring sets his sight on NY

Richard Caring has spent the best part of the past five years snapping up some of London's swishest nightspots.

Now, it looks as if he is keen to play the Monopoly board across the pond in New York.

This month's edition of Vanity Fair has run a six-page profile of the millionaire clothing tycoon, and reports that he recently launched an unsuccessful bid to snap up Balthazar, the fashionable eatery in SoHo which belongs to the British restaurateur, Keith McNally.

Also in his sights, apparently, is the ultra-conservative Four Seasons restaurant, home to some of the city's foremost moustaches. The restaurant is one of the Big Apple's main power-lunch hotspots, but Caring is unlikely to be too perturbed by what any of Noo Yawk's Martini-guzzling snobs think about him.

He has already had to endure constant claret spluttering over the past year or so from members of Annabel's nightclub in London, ever since he bought the Mayfair haunt from Mark Birley in June last year.

Cliff won't stop for Little Chef

Sir Cliff Richard has emabrked on his 50th anniversary tour of Britain, but the squeaky-clean pop star is not the only cultural institution celebrating a milestone.

This year also marks the 50th birthday of the roadside restaurant chain Little Chef, which thought it might be jolly to invite Sir Cliff along to perform at the company's anniversary party next month.

"Sadly, he couldn't make it," says an organiser. "His management told us that, while he would love to be there, he cannot owing to time constraints. Bafflingly, they then said they would be more than happy to allow Little Chef to erect a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Sir Cliff while playing his hits instead."

So generous!

Mandy cosies up with Russia as Miliband looks on

Peter Mandelson, we are told, spent the first part of this week holed up in a £5,500-a-night hotel suite in Moscow (paid for by himself), schmoozing with Russian business delegates. But hold on, aren't we supposed to be in some sort of stand-off with Russia at present?

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, grew two days of stubble in an attempt to outstare his counterparts at the Kremlin during the Georgian crisis this summer. "We don't see it as returning to business as usual, we have to be pragmatic," explains an spokesman for the Foreign Office. "As for Lord Mandelson's visit, we have a wide and deep economic relationship with Russia which it is in both our interest to pursue, hence his visit."

Maybe so, but Mandy certainly does look cosy strutting about on the world stage at the moment. Surely, it is too late for him to fulfil those often mooted ambitions to be Foreign Secretary?

A near-miss as Neil avoids his fleur-pas

It Is around this time each year when the BBC falls into that perennial trap: allowing its presenters to go on screen without their customary poppy.

The first casualty of the season was Andrew Neil, who introduced Monday's edition of the Daily Politics show on BBC2 sans fleur.

Five minutes into the programme and the mistake was rectified, and Neil's lapel was suitably adorned. Well done, that floor manager!

pandora@independent.co.uk

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