Formula 1 reacts after former chief praises ‘first-class’ Putin
Formula One has issued a statement after former chief executive Bernie Ecclestone ignited a heated reaction for telling UK television that he would "take a bullet" for “first-class person” Vladimir Putin.
Ecclestone has frequently described Putin as a friend since the introduction of the Russian Grand Prix to the F1 schedule in 2014.
The British tycoon told ITV breakfast show 'Good Morning Britain' on Thursday that he still respected the Russian leader and accused Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of not doing more to stop the current conflict.
“I’d still take a bullet for him,” Ecclestone replied when asked if he still sees Putin as a friend.
“I’d rather it didn’t hurt, but if it does I’d still take a bullet, because he’s a first-class person. What he’s doing is something that he believed was the right thing he was doing for Russia.”
Ecclestone doubled down on his criticism of Zelensky when asked by presenter Kate Garraway: “So just to understand you clearly, you think that President Zelensky should have done more to avert this war and it could have been avoided by Zelensky’s actions, not by a change in Putin’s actions?”
“Absolutely,” responded Ecclestone, who suggested Zelensky was more suited to his former profession as a comedian.
“I’m quite sure Ukraine, if they’d wanted to get out of it properly, could have done,” Ecclestone added.
Amid a predictably hostile response after Ecclestone went against the presiding Western narrative, Formula One moved quickly to announce its opposition to his statements.
“The comments made by Bernie Ecclestone are his personal views and are in very stark contrast to the position of the modern values of our sport,” said the organization.
F1 indefinitely stripped Russia of its Grand Prix hosting rights following the beginning of the military operation in Ukraine, falling in line with several other sporting federation across the globe who announced sanctions on Russian sport in recent months.
Ecclestone also waded into another ongoing row within F1, claiming that Lewis Hamilton should be “happy” to receive an apology from former driver Nelson Picquet after he was accused of using racially insensitive language in reference to the multiple-time world champion.
“I've known Nelson for an awful long time. I was with him a couple of weeks ago. It's not the sort of thing Nelson would say meaning something bad,” said Ecclestone.
“He probably thinks lots of things he says which might upset us or might feel a little bit offensive.... to him it's nothing. It's just part of conversation.
“People say things... if people happen to be a little bit overweight, or undersized like me, I'm quite sure a lot of people have made remarks about that. If I'd have heard it, I'd have been able to deal with it myself without too much trouble.
“I'm surprised Lewis hasn't just brushed it aside. Or, better than that, replied. But he's now come out and Nelson has apologized so everyone should be happy,” said the 91-year-old Ecclestone.