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Backstage at F1's most fashionable party

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F1 Mole | 09:51 UK time, Saturday, 23 May 2009

The Mole tunnelled backstage at the Amber Fashion show in Monaco on Friday to catch a glimpse of Formula 1 at its most glamorous.

F1 and fashion went hand-in-hand as the drivers swapped the grid for the catwalk to raise money for the Elton John Aids Foundation.

Championship leader Jenson Button, Red Bull duo Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, Nelson Piquet of Renault, Williams's Nico Rosberg, Force India's Adrian Sutil and their reserve driver Tonio Liuzzi were joined by BBC pundit David Coulthard.

They snuggled up in sweaters and long coats to model Petra (daughter of F1 boss Bernie) Ecclestone's winter collection.

Brawn GP driver Jenson Button and former Red Bull driver David Coulthard

World champion Lewis Hamilton made a dramatic late entrance as he arrived at the Meridien Beach Plaza hotel from across the sea.

"He is approaching things differently," explained one of the dressers. How so? "He's getting changed on a boat."

The drivers ditched on-track rivalries to engage in some serious banter on catwalk etiquette.

While Button gave Coulthard some advice on striking a pose, Force India's Sutil was looking forward to his turn on the swimming pool runway.

"I like fashion," nodded the German Force India driver. "I'd really like to go to Milan to watch a real fashion show.

"I'd say the clothes we are wearing would be good for Spa later in the season as they are very warm material."

Just in case the drivers weren't nervous enough, a right royal line-up of celebrities and special guests waited on the front row to see them strut their stuff.

The best seats in the house went to Bernie Ecclestone, Prince Albert II of Monaco, Princess Beatrice, Elizabeth Hurley and husband Arun Nayar, Sir Richard Branson, Olympic legend Michael Johnson and comedian David Walliams.

Hamilton delivered another Jekyll and Hyde performance as he dropped his backstage smiles to adopt a model's cool glare - but it didn't stop the world champion receiving the biggest cheer of the night when he did his turn.

With the drivers safely back in their jeans and trainers, a charity auction raised more than 345,000 Euros (£303,000) for Elton John's charity, which provides support for those living with Aids in 15 countries, including the UK.

Ecclestone re-donated his prize after contributing 35,000 Euros (£31,000), while Prince Albert and Elton's partner David Furnish were all successful bidders, while Branson, the Hurleys and Johnson missed out.

The biggest prize - a private dinner for 10 people at the singer's villa in Nice - went to a mystery bidder for 145,000 euros (£128,000).

After that, all that was left was for the guests to toast the setting sun with cocktails round the pool.

But with a cocktail of challenges to face the next day during practice and qualifying for Sunday's Grand Prix, there was no such luck for the drivers.

What time do they have to be tucked up in bed? "10:30 tonight," sighed Sutil - and with that the party was over.

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