Ex-F1 chief slams brakes on Putin comments
Former Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has reversed away from comments he made in support of Vladimir Putin, after previously saying that he would “take a bullet” for the Russian President.
“I’d rather it didn’t hurt, but if it did, I’d still take a bullet,” he said recently. “Because he’s a first-class person. And what he’s doing is something that he believed was the right thing for Russia.”
His comments were seized upon by a ravenous UK media, particularly given that large swathes of the sporting world have made clear their support for Ukraine throughout Russia's military operation in the country.
Ecclestone, 91, said in his comments, which were originally broadcast on ITV's 'Good Morning Britain' television show, that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky could have done more to prevent the conflict - a stark departure from statements made elsewhere in the Western sports world.
The interview gained steam online, prompting Formula 1 to issue a statement in which they distanced themselves from their former executive, saying: “The comments made by Bernie Ecclestone are his personal views and are in very stark contrast to position of the modern values of our sport.”
And addressing the furore on Sky Sports on Saturday, Ecclestone opted to backtrack and suggested that his initial comments had been perceived incorrectly.
“I think often people come out and say things or do things without really too much thinking. Probably I did the same,” he said.
“I can understand people thinking I'm defending what he's done in Ukraine, which I don't. I was brought up during the war, the last war, so I know what it's like.
“So I feel sorry for the people in Ukraine having to suffer for something they haven't done. They've done nothing wrong. They didn't start anything. They want to get on with their lives.”
Ecclestone has also stated his opposition to the various sanctions placed upon Russian sports by various federation in the past several months, such as the decision by Wimbledon tennis chiefs to bar players from both Russia and Belarus from playing at the London event.
“I think it's wrong to stop Russian athletes, including drivers from taking part in their sport,” he said.
“They didn't get involved in this in the first place so they shouldn't be punished.”
However, despite distancing himself from his comments about Putin, Ecclestone stopped short of disavowing his criticism of F1 driver Lewis Hamilton after wading into a row involving the driver, and suggesting that the Englishman should “brush aside” racist comments directed at him online.