Tamara Ecclestone grew up with F1, went jet skiing with Senna and counts Niki Lauda as a close friend. An international media star and burgeoning businesswoman, she reveals why she’s more than just Bernie’s daughter
Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
After 40 odd years in the entertainment industry you might think I’d have learnt not to have too many preconceptions based on information gleaned from the excited babbling of the English tabloids. My own limited experience of their ability to compose breathtaking inventions should really have taught me that these same skills might be applied to every other story in the paper…
Having failed this test I was able to enjoy a sense of relief and pleasure at arriving at Tamara Ecclestone’s house to find no trace of demands for 10 fluffy white kittens, rose petals scattered, traffic diverted, or bowl of Smarties (with just the pink ones extracted) on the table.
It quickly became apparent that Tamara can be very funny. She suggested the title Tamara’s World for her reality show, but this was rejected by the producers and, while it may be bordering on the incomprehensible to those unfamiliar with the now defunct BBC TV show Tomorrow’s World, I’d have loved to have thought of it. She also has impeccable taste in cars. This might seem inevitable given the family history but an unlimited budget is often a recipe for the most appalling customised nightmare vehicles, riding roughshod over the most capable car designers of the 20th and 21st century.
Tamara’s Overfinch Range Rover sports attention to the engine rather than opting for a conversion concentrating on a selection of bath taps and fabrics better suited to a set from Pirates of the Caribbean. Next up is a Ferrari 599 GTO. Here I must declare a vested interest. As a fellow 599 GTO owner there is nothing more bonding than agreeing that this car is bound to become one of the great collectors’ classics… Finally, there is Tamara’s engagement in motorsport and the world of Formula One in particular. With her experience as a TV interviewer for F1, I found her take on the drivers she found the easiest to interview fascinating and often surprising. And her appreciation of Ayrton again indicated impeccable taste! However, I suspect the most telling response of all was her judgment on one of the most difficult interviews in the business. And maybe it’s an indicator on why there’s an element of steel and grounding in her personality. It was her father…
The Official Ferrari Magazine The famous turntable is just the other side of this window.
What’s the story, Tamara?
Tamara Ecclestone [rolls eyes] The press have a go at me about everything. Trying to reverse a Ferrari, or any car that’s not a Mini, down that drive is a stress, so why not avoid it? Besides, it was here when I bought the house. In fact, I’d like to take this opportunity now, via The Official Ferrari
Magazine, to establish that the turntable at my house was actually already here when I moved in…
I thought it was a great idea, and I’m certainly not planning to move it.
Nick Mason So Ferrari. A long relationship?
TE Well I had a 599. I loved it. I was offered the GTO, it’s an amazing car, a collector’s piece, and
obviously my dad collects cars and has an amazing collection. I wanted to buy a car that wouldn’t be a fad, something I really want to keep. An Enzo is probably the ultimate Ferrari for me. I love
Ferrari but I wouldn’t say I was a great authority.
NM The GTO’s great. You can do so much with it. You can see out of it, take it to the shops. It does everything really well.
TE I like my cars. It’s in my blood. My dad used to drive me to school and he drives like a lunatic.
I guess I’m a real girly girl now but when I was little I was a real tomboy, I used to cry when mum tried to put me in dresses, I wanted to wear dungarees. I was obsessed with horse riding, tennis and F1. [giggles] I don’t know what’s happened to me… I’ve obviously changed. [Blackberry keeps
chiming] Whoever you are, go away…
TOFM You attract a lot of attention in the British media, not always positive. Are you coping with it?
TE I think people are jealous. I’m an easy person to have a pop at. But I’m learning to care less and less. I don’t care what people who don’t know me think. My dad just says not to let it affect me, that if I want to carry on my TV or modelling career I need a thicker skin. I used to be very sensitive. I guess I’m more realistic about things. There are so many untruths out there I just laugh about it now.
NM Sadly, there does seem to be a tendency in the UK to wish ill of people. And there is an element of envy. Or jealousy, as you said, Tamara.
TE The British press are the meanest in the world. My TV show has aired all over the world, and the UK was the one place where people were spiteful.
TOFM Why did you agree to do the TV show?
TE I’d been asked to do a reality show every year since I was 17 or 18. I never thought it was the right time, or I was too nervous. Then I decided I was ready, that I would regret it more if I didn’t do it than if I had. When the production company Two Four came to me I said, ‘OK, now I’m ready.’
TOFM What did your mother and father say?
TE In the beginning they expressed concern. Having watched it, my mum loved it. My dad hasn’t
seen all of it, though.
TOFM When did you realise you were the daughter of remarkable people?
TE When I started at secondary school. I thought everyone’s dad did the same job as mine. When I
was a teenager people picked up on the fact I was Bernie Ecclestone’s daughter. People changed, I
didn’t think it was unusual. This is the guy who always dropped me off at school. I was rubbish
at art and he’d help me…
TOFM Mr E used to help with drawing?
TE Oh, yes, he’s very artistic. You’d never guess, would you?
NM It’s a question asked of anyone with famous parents. What’s it like? The answer is, it’s normal…
TE Exactly. It’s all you know.
NM What’s the best advice your parents gave you?
TE To treat other people the way you want to be treated. That manners cost nothing. A lot of people
just forget the basic stuff. What else? Not to take shit from anyone, both my parents are very tough.
My dad is the most practical and pragmatic person, a great person to go to for advice. My mum
was an inspiration. We never had nannies, all my friends had them, but my mum was completely
hands-on. Maybe because she’s Croatian. That’s the kind of relationship I want to have with my
children. People say, children don’t remember that stuff. But things stick with you.
TOFM Did you go to lots of Grands Prix?
TE Yes. Always the Italian GP. My parents met at the Italian GP, and I was born in Milan. So there’s a sentimental attachment. Plus, it’s near Milan so there’s good shopping. [giggles] I’ve been to all of them at some point in my life, I guess. There’s a picture of me at a race somewhere, it’s raining and I’m wrapped up in an over-sized Ferrari jacket.
TOFM Your dad insists on carrying that oldfashioned walkie talkie when’s he on the grid…
TE I know. [raises eyebrows] He doesn’t have a Blackberry. I think he has one of those old Nokias
with the really annoying ring-tone. I can’t imagine him using an iPhone, it would drive him mad. He’s probably not going to be downloading music…
NM Were there any drivers you were close to?
TE [instantly] Ayrton Senna. He was a big part of my life. He came to our house in Switzerland, and it was the first time he’d ever seen snow. We went to his house in Brazil, and put me on his jet ski. The nicest man ever. I went to the premiere of the film [Senna] I was crying… all rather embarrassing.
NM It must have been extraordinary growing up in the F1 world the way you did.
TE It’s the only life I know, so it doesn’t seem strange to me. Ayrton was such a nice person. I love
Gerhard [Berger], he’s fun. F1 is missing people like that today, it’s become very sponsor conscious. I think the sport is missing people who have real personality. I love Niki Lauda too. Another really nice person. Doesn’t suffer fools gladly, which is a good thing.
NM Dear me, you sound as old as us… Oh, things aren’t as good as they used to be… You obviously have lots of good friends in the F1 community.
TE Well I also presented a programme for Sky Sports in Italy.
NM Have you interviewed Luca di Montezemolo?
TE Yes, I have. I thought he was charming, very charismatic and very easy to interview.
NM Who was the trickiest person to interview?
TE Jenson Button. A lot of the British public turned on me when I said that, but all I pointed out was that he took a 15-minute phone call in the middle of an interview. That’s just rude. I would never do that… It wasn’t just me, it was the director, the cameraman, the sound man… all these people kept waiting.
NM I expected it to be someone a bit terse, maybe like Kimi…
TE He’s always sooo nice to me! He’s a character. I’d say my dad’s difficult to interview. He’s not the most talkative man in the world [giggles]. I had to interview him, and he was, well, monosyllabic. That’s what he’s like in real life. He likes to get his point across in as few words as possible.
TOFM Have you read the books on your dad?
TE Yes. It was my holiday read. No Angel.
TOFM Do you think your father is a candidate for entrepreneur of the century?
TE One hundred per cent. One hundred per cent. I’m so proud of what he’s achieved. It’s incredible. So yes, I think he’s a genius. Not that I would ever tell him that. We don’t have that kind of relationship.
TOFM I’m sure he’s proud of you…
TE I don’t know if he is or isn’t, but I’m definitely proud of him. He’s old school. Men from that generation don’t really talk about their emotions. I know he loves me and supports me, but he’s not
someone you would have a heart-to-heart with. My mother’s the opposite. I think I’m a mix of the two, though everyone says I’m more like my mum. I have the same dry sense of humour as my dad.
TOFM Aren’t you quite a big star in Italy?
TE [sheepishly] I think so. I don’t know how it happened. The Brits hate me, the Italians love me!
I don’t really understand why. The Daily Mail hates everyone, so I don’t take it personally.
TOFM What’s on the agenda for 2012?
TE I’m launching a haircare range. I work with Great Ormond Street hospital – I’m planning their
pre-Silverstone fund-raising party. And we start filming the second season of my TV show shortly.
TOFM Isn’t it intrusive having a TV crew follow you about all day long?
TE You get used to it. The director and camera operator were nice people, so it wasn’t like
hanging out with people I didn’t like. I love reality TV. I don’t think I’ve changed as a person. I’m the same person doing different things. I don’t know what people want me to do. Give away all my money, not have a nice life? Well I’m not going to do it. It’s not like charity isn’t an important part of my life, that I don’t give something back. I suppose I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.
NM What about the name of the programme?
TE That wasn’t down to me. I wanted to call it Tamara’s World. But it’s not as provocative as
Billion Dollar Girl.
NM That’s great. We ought to use that somewhere. Perhaps that could be the headline for this piece…
TE Hissy fits are not my thing but I believe that this article should be called ‘Tamara’s World’. And I’ll be very upset if it’s not.
Published on The Official Ferrari Magazine 17 issue May 2012