When billionaire heiress Tamara Ecclestone met her father Bernie at their favourite Japanese restaurant before the lockdown, she thought it would just be an ordinary family dinner.
With husband Jay Rutland on her arm and their daughter clutching her colouring books, Tamara hugged and kissed her dad and his younger third wife before sitting down to eat.
Little did Tamara know their visit in January had been arranged so the ex-Formula 1 boss could drop the bombshell news that, at the age of 89, he was to become a father again, with wife Fabiana, 44.
Tamara says: ‘We had no idea what was going on. We just thought we were meeting Dad and Fabi for a meal. We were in the middle of eating when Fabiana told us.’She laughs.
Petra Stunt, Bernie Ecclestone and Tamara Ecclestone (left to right) attend the inaugural fundraising dinner for The Petra Stunt Foundation, June 19, 2017 in London
‘My husband missed it. he was like, ‘hold on a minute, what’s going on? have I missed something?’ ‘Always keen to treat his offspring equally, Bernie immediately called his youngest daughter, Petra, who was pregnant with her fourth child and living in Los Angeles.
‘He wanted us all to know at the same time,’ says Tamara, 35. ‘It was all done very diplomatically.’
One member of the family who had already guessed, though, was Tamara’s own daughter Fifi, six, who predicted she would be getting a new aunt or uncle in the near future, ‘because that’s what mar-ried couples do’.
‘Fifi had said to Fabiana: ‘have you got a baby in your tummy?’. Fabiana replied, saying: ‘Maybe one day, who knows what will hap-pen.’ But she was pregnant.
‘It goes without saying that it’s an unusual family situation.
Bernie’s fourth child – they already know it will be a boy – is due in July and will be an uncle to little Fifi.
The newborn will also be five months younger than his youngest niece – 31-year-old Petra’s newborn baby girl.
Fabiana Flosi, 44, and Bernie Ecclestone, 89, attend a party celebrating the launch of ‘Sweet Revenge: The Intimate Life of Simon Cowelll’ by Tom Bower at The Serpentine Gallery, 2012
Bernie has another daughter, Deborah, 65, from his first mar-riage to telephone operator Ivy Bamford.even though she’s had three months to get used the fact she is going to have a new little brother for the first time in more than 30 years, Tamara is still a bit bewildered.
But there’s no doubt the news has been welcomed by the Ecclestone family, who have had their fair share of ups and downs of late.
Late last year, Tamara and her husband were left traumatised after their £70 million home in Kensington, West London, was burgled, the thieves taking £50 million worth of the heiress’s jewellery.
Young soul! Tamara Ecclestone, 35, discussed father’s baby news, branding him a ‘young soul and amazing energy’ during an appearance with husband Jay Rutland, 39, on This Morning
A Romanian cleaner has since appeared in court accused of theft but denies any involvement.
Meanwhile, Petra endured a very acrimonious divorce from James Stunt, the disgraced tycoon, now bankrupt, who The Mail on Sunday revealed last year had lent forged artworks to Prince Charles.
‘The birth of a baby is the most amazing experience and we are so excited,’ cooed Tamara, ending speculation of a rift between her-self and Fabiana.
‘It is going to bring so much happiness to everyone. I am so happy for them. It is the most important thing to all of us.
‘For most people, anticipating your father pushing his newborn in a pram just months before his 90th birthday would be an extraordinary turn of events.
But for Tamara, it’s just another chapter in the Ecclestone family’s colourful life story.
Perhaps because her young-at-heart father doesn’t act his age.
Close: Tamara Ecclestone previously revealed her daughter predicted Bernie was to become a father again aged 89 with his wife Fabiana (pictured) and he sat the family down to tell them
‘I was shocked but not totally blindsided because I don’t really think about my dad’s age. he is super-young for his age.
‘Family and friends never see him as 89. In any case, he’s not the per-son other people think he is.
‘Tamara credits her father’s ‘good genes’ for his health and youthful looks.
‘he has never smoked and doesn’t drink much – which has always gone in his favour,’ she says.
Apart from having had his eyes lasered and growing a goatee, he doesn’t have any quirky anti-ageing tricks, she says.
‘He doesn’t exercise much but he is one of those people who is really lucky health-wise. he doesn’t do anything weird. he doesn’t juice or hike – he is just normal. It’s not like he’s had a stress-free life, either.
Bernie Ecclestone, 89, and Fabiana Flosi, 44, Tamara Ecclestone Rutland, 35, and Jay Rutland, 39, attend a private view of artist Dan Baldwin’s exhibition ‘A New Optimism’ at Maddox Gallery March 2018
‘He has a really good outlook on life, so he doesn’t let things get him down. he doesn’t hold on to grudges. I think it’s really healthy to be able to be like that.’
Of, course Bernie’s immense wealth – £2.48 billion according to Forbes magazine – helps.
And his excitement over the impending birth is perhaps heightened by the fact it will be his first son. For he has been surrounded by mostly women in his personal life throughout his 89 years.
With his Lowestoft trawlerman father Sidney away a lot when he was a child, he was very close to his mother Bertha throughout his childhood.
Then there are his three wives, Ivy, Croatian-born Slavica (mother to Tamara and Petra) and now Fabiana, from Brazil – and his trio of daughters.
Three of his five grandchildren are girls, too. Tamara says: ‘My sister has two boys but this will be Dad’s first – so you can imagine how excited he is. It’s going to be very different for him, you know. He is used to being surrounded by women so this will be a big change. I guess it starts to even things out a bit for him.’
Tamara has already bought lots of gifts ready for her new brother and hopes to arrange a baby shower for her stepmother, who is just eight years her senior.
‘I just love organising anything,’ she enthuses. Indeed, she has plenty of time on her hands, being locked down in her 57-room home on one of the country’s most expensive streets, backing on to Kensington Gardens.
So how is self-isolation for her, art gallery owner husband Jay and little Fifi?
‘I’ve learned to bake,’ Tamara says. ‘I made banana bread the other day, and I’ve been helping Fifi with her home-schooling. She says I’m a good teacher.’
She’s also been making video-calls in order to talk with her dad, who lives in Switzerland. But first he had to be given what she describes as a ‘lockdown tutorial’ in all things technical.
‘He even sends pictures on WhatsApp now,’ says Tamara. She’s also been video-calling a lot with her sister Petra, who earlier this year gave birth to a girl with her new fiance, Sam Palmer, a vintage car salesman from Essex.
Due to coronavirus, Petra has been unable to get home to Los Angeles from the UK.
Bernie Ecclestone, Chairman Emeritus of the Formula One Group, and his wife Fabiana walk in the Paddock before the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 29, 2019
And, sadly for the sisters, although Petra is staying just a few miles away from Tamara, they have not been able to meet up in person.
Tamara says: ‘Petra is coping really well at home with four young kids – and is so sweet. We are calling each other 1,000 times a day! It’s lovely.’
Life has certainly got better for Tamara and her family since she was left petrified by December’s break-in, which happened while they were ski-ing in Switzerland.
She admits it has been a long process to come to terms with the trauma of it but she is confident she can ‘move on’ for good. ‘It has taken time,’ she says quietly.
‘It’s a thing you have to work through but we have absolute trust in the British justice system and we believe justice will be done.
‘Of course it has been hard but with everything that is going on with coronavirus, it is no longer at the forefront of our minds.
‘The current situation for everyone is such a worry for us.’ Eager to pull their weight, Tamara and her husband have joined former England footballer Joe Cole and his wife Carly to raise money for the Heroes charitable organisation founded by doctors, nurses and healthcare workers and dedicated to supporting the welfare and wellbeing of NHS staff as they work on the frontlines of the current Covid19 pandemic.
And 30 artists working with Jay’s Maddox Gallery have now donated artwork to the #ArtForHeroes campaign, with all proceeds donated to Heroes. More than £700,000 has been raised so far and, next Thursday, a second phase of the initiative launches, when prints of a photograph of a lioness by David Yarrow will go on sale through the Maddox Gallery.
Jay said: ‘Joe Cole is a friend of mine and when he and his wife asked us to help, we felt we wanted to do more.
‘So David Yarrow, who I work with through the gallery, gave us his picture of a lioness. It is to symbolise pride in the NHS and pride in our country. The ‘I’ in pride has been replaced with NHS. It is immediately obvious what the image represents. ‘It is really important for people to know where money for the prints is going – directly to help the NHS workers in many ways.’
To purchase a print go to artforheroes.co.uk. More information: helpthemhelpus.co.uk or @helpthemhelpus_ on Instagram