It was a premature baby called Charlie who gave Tamara Ecclestone a new perspective on life.
Only six months old, this “tiniest boy” had already undergone numerous operations at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.
“He was so determined and his mother was coping with the most enormous stress,” explains Tamara, daughter of motor-racing billionaire Bernie.
For the Sky Sports presenter, the experience of seeing the young woman so “calm and composed” in such traumatic circumstances was life-changing.
“I came here (to Great Ormond Street) to do some filming and met the mother of one of the patients,” she says as we chat over tea in the hospital’s roof-garden.
“Seeing her cope put everything into perspective for me. You realise what is really important in life – family and friends – and that other things don’t matter.”
Championing the cause of sick babies is Tamara’s new vocation.
The former “It girl”, 25, has been appointed creative director of Great Ormond Street’s annual fundraiser, which is endorsed by Formula One.
Her job is to ensure the F1 Party is the hottest charity ticket in town and that guests have both a memorable evening and dig deep to raise the money to renovate the hospital.
Great Ormond Street may be world-leading but its buildings are in desperate need of upgrading. The F1 Party is key in bringing in much-needed cash.
This year’s bash at the V&A brought in an impressive £450,000 thanks to prizes such as dinner with Orlando Bloom and an exclusive set by Duffy.
Tamara’s father bid £30,000 for Lewis Hamilton‘s bespoke diamond-encrusted helmet.
But raising money in a recession, says Tamara, is a “big responsibility” even if your father is a billionaire.
“It’s not just a case of ‘Let’s get Duffy along to sing’,” she says. “The party took months to organise.”
The relationship between Great Ormond Street and the world of fast cars began nearly a decade ago. Two of the hospital’s top surgeons realised they could learn from pit-stop techniques while watching a grand prix race on television.
Chief cardiothoracic surgeon Professor Martin Elliott and intensive care expert Dr Allan Goldman were struck by the similarities between the handover disciplines from theatre to intensive care at their hospital and the changeover in the pits.
A phone call to McLaren and Ferrari confirmed their fears – hospital handovers were chaotic and needing streamlining. Their solution, says Tamara, has transformed intensive care and “gone all over the world”.
The link with Great Ormond Street is also a personal one for the Ecclestones because “Dad has always loved children”.
Bernie has been inviting Great Ormond Street patients to the British Grand Prix since 2003.
Despite his workaholic ways, the businessman, 78, dotes on Tamara and younger sister Petra. Both lived at the £10 million family home in Chelsea until recently.
It’s fair to say the lives of Tamara and her sister have been exceptionally privileged.
Her father owns the commercial rights to Formula One and has built up an estimated £1.5 billion fortune.
Her 6ft 2in mother Slavica has modelled for designers including Armani. For the record, Tamara takes after Slavica but is a “Daddy’s girl”.
So it was traumatic, Tamara reveals, when 10 years ago their father was rushed to hospital.
Doctors diagnosed heart problems and performed a bypass. The memory is still raw of her normally “invincible” father lying helpless in a hospital bed.
“I was only 11 or 12 and still at school and it was very difficult seeing him look so vulnerable. But my dad is a survivor and was out of hospital and back in the office a week later.
Work keeps him going – when you have created something like he has you have to. But you can’t buy good health and it’s something you shouldn’t take for granted.”
She knows human life is fragile. This gives her extra insight into the “invaluable, truly amazing work” of doctors and nurses at Great Ormond Street.
“They don’t just treat the children but keep them in good spirits and positive.
“All the parents and children I met on the wards commented on what a difference this makes during the most difficult time.”
As well as sports presenting and charity work, Tamara has dabbled in modelling, including posing for FHM magazine.
Lad magazines aside, there is plenty of substance to Ms Ecclestone. She may have her mother’s looks but she has also inherited her father’s single-mindedness.
Pushed into attending university, Tamara quit her psychology course at University College London after a year. Then she dropped out of the London School of Economics.
“My parents were like ‘No one had the opportunity to do this in our families’. But I didn’t want to go to university just for the sake of it.”
Another shock – at least for F1 fans – was her parents’ decision to divorce after 24 years of marriage. The subject is off-limits even for the chatty and candid Tamara.
But she gives the impression the split has not damaged their tight family unit. Her parents attended the last F1 party together.
Tamara has a boyfriend on the scene but she remains tight-lipped on details, saying only: “There are so many things I want to do in my life and kids are definitely part of the big plan – I’d love to have them.”
There is no suggestion though, says Tamara, that she will follow her father into the macho world of motorsport. Not that she is afraid of hard work.
Her parents “were never going to let me sit around and watch Jeremy Kyle”.
She just has other ambitions: doing her best for Great Ormond Street, more TV- presenting and, one day, her own family.