How A Formula 1 Team Lost A Diamond Worth Over $300,000

In the world of Formula 1 racing, cash is king. It's no secret that the team with the most money to spend on car development usually ends up topping the standings. While much of the money teams make comes from sponsorship or investments, there are times when they need to get a little more creative. One of the most infamous examples of one of these creative publicity stunts that went wrong involves a diamond, a George Clooney movie, and one of Formula 1's most iconic circuits: the streets of Monaco.

The team involved was Jaguar Racing, a team that started its life in the 1990s as Stewart Grand Prix, a team owned by the legendary driver and former champion Sir Jackie Stewart. According to GP Racing Stats, that iteration of the team operated from 1997 to 1999 and was moderately successful, with a fourth place finish in the 1999 constructors' championship standings, even nabbing a win when Johnny Herbert won a rainy European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring (via Grand Prix).

Ahead of the 2000 season, Stewart Grand Prix's engine supplier, Ford, purchased the team, rebranding it as Jaguar Racing to promote the British luxury car brand that they owned at the time. Ford meant business as they debuted a strong driver lineup of Johnny Herbert and Eddie Irvine. However, the team's first car, the Jaguar R1, proved to be unwieldy, leaving the team at the bottom of the standings.

Jaguar's troubles continue and a gem of an idea

Things never improved very much for Jaguar. The team stayed in F1 from 2000 to 2004, but never finished higher than seventh in the constructors' standings. They were sold before the 2005 season and rebranded as Red Bull Racing, a team that went on to win multiple championships, and is still a powerhouse to this day. In the final season under the Jaguar Racing banner, however, the team hatched a plan that would bring the team some money and some publicity: a tie-in with a major upcoming movie.

According to GQ, ahead of the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix, the team announced that they would be partnering with the promoters of the film "Ocean's 12" to run a promotion that would make the iconic race known for its glitz and glamour more glitzy and glamorous than it had ever been: They were going to embed real diamonds in the noses of both of their cars, each stone valued at over $300,000.

The team planned to run their cars, diamonds and all, in the Grand Prix, but reportedly even did so during free practice sessions. Come race day, the film's stars — George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon — were all in attendance to see Jaguar's drivers Mark Webber and Christian Klien as they attempted to tackle one of Formula 1's most difficult circuits. It was almost immediately apparent after the race started that this stunt would go from over-the-top to infamous.

The mystery of the missing Jaguar diamond

Webber and Klien started the race in their Jaguar R5s in 11th and 14th places, respectively. As the lights went out, the cars would thunder toward the circuit's first turn — named Sainte Devote, per Bleacher Report — which the field made it through cleanly, but Klien wouldn't get much further than that. According to GQ, the Austrian driver would wind up crashing just a few corners later, running his car nose-first into the circuit's famous hotel hairpin.

It was a disappointing race for both Klien and Jaguar, but it wouldn't match the surprise they were about to get. After track workers recovered the car, it was returned to paddock, where the team made a shocking discovery: the diamond was gone.

To this day the jewel has never been recovered. Some have speculated that the diamond came off during the crash, others believe that a sticky-fingered track marshal may have pocketed it, while those who like a good conspiracy theory have argued that the diamond was never on the car. The final explanation is the most unlikely, however, as the other Jaguar R5 driven by Australia's Mark Webber retired with an electronics issue on lap 11 of the race, its diamond still embedded in the car's nose.