One rookie driver and bang goes a flawless £200,000 diamond

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The Independent Online

A diamond worth £200,000 embedded in the nose of a Jaguar Formula One car was lost when its rookie driver crashed in yesterday's Monaco Grand Prix.

Two flawless gems, the size of shirt buttons, were put in the nose of both Jaguar cars in a one-race-only publicity stunt for the Israeli diamond dealers Steinmetz. The cars were also advertising the forthcoming Hollywood filmOcean's 12, which involves an international diamond robbery.

But, shortly after the beginning of the race, Austrian Christian Klien, a newcomer to the Formula One scene, crashed his car nose-first into a guard rail.

Nav Sidhu, the team spokesman said: "He is a new driver, just 21 years old, and he has never driven at Monaco. It was the first lap of the race and at the Loews hairpin the cars were all bunched up. Christian drove into the back of Nick Heidfeld, the Jordan driver, and he lost his front wing. That means no down force and that means no grip. The car just careered off into the rail."

Mr Sidhu, who admitted that it had been his idea to embed the diamonds into the cars, said: "At that point, I should probably have been worried about the car or the race or the drive but, I must admit, my immediate thought was for the diamond."

Two hours later, when the race officials allowed Jaguar to inspect the car after the race, Mr Sidhu's worst fears were realised.

"It has gone. We have 100,000 people milling around trying to find a bit of crashed car across the course and I think there is going to be a lot of activity around the Loews hairpin. It is right outside the famous Mirabeau Hotel. I don't expect we are going to get it back," he said.

The diamond is not believed to have been insured.

The cost of insuring a £200,000 diamond to be driven at hundreds of miles an hour in a Formula One race would have been prohibitive.

Mr Sidhu said he had not yet discussed the loss with Steinmetz but believed "at the end of the day it is the sponsor that will take the loss". Steinmetz could not be reached for comment.

The company, run by Israeli brothers Benny and Danny Steinmetz, is unlikely to be ruined by the disappearance of the gem. It is one of the biggest players on the international diamond market.

Steinmetz is currently negotiating a deal to export more than £50m of diamonds from Russia annually and the group also has interests in mining, real estate, gas, oil and high technology companies.

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