Former Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said he would “get shot” by Vladimir Putin and called the Russian president a “first class person”.
When asked on the British TV show “Good Morning Britain” if President Putin was still friends with him, the 91-year-old Englishman said on Thursday: “I would still get shot for him. I’d rather it not hurt, but I’d still get shot.”
Nearly five months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the conflict continues. Thousands of lives have been lost and millions have been displaced, according to the United Nations (UN), and while Kiev has won a string of early victories in the initial aftermath, the tide appears to be turning in the Kremlin’s favor, especially in the east.
“What he’s doing is something he believed was the right thing to do,” Ecclestone said of the war.
“Unfortunately, he’s like a lot of business people, certainly like me, that we make mistakes every now and then and when you make a mistake, you have to do your best to get out of it.”
Ecclestone, who was replaced as F1’s chief executive in 2017 after nearly four decades in office, also criticized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s handling of the invasion.
“The other person in Ukraine… his profession, I understand, he used to be a comedian – and I think it looks like he wants to continue in that profession,” he said.
“I think if he had thought things through, he would definitely have made a big enough effort to talk to Putin, who is a sensible person, and he would have listened to him and probably could have done something about it.”
When asked about the fact that the Russian invasion of Ukraine claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people, Ecclestone replied: “It was not intentional.”
And asked if Zelensky could have done more to stop the war, Ecclestone said: “Absolutely.”
In a statement sent to CNN, Formula 1 said: “The comments made by Bernie Ecclestone are his personal views and are in stark contrast to the position of modern values in our sport.”
At the time of publication, the FIA, motorsport’s governing body, had not yet responded to CNN’s request for comment.
Ecclestone supported Putin on gay rights
The British billionaire is no stranger to controversy. In 2009, he praised Adolf Hitler for being “able to get things done” – comments he later apologized for – and said that women should dress in white “like all other household appliances”.
In 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, Ecclestone told CNN that “black people are more racist than white people.”
Following those comments, F1 released a statement on its website saying it “completely ran” on Ecclestone.
Ecclestone and Putin have been allies for a long time. Their relationship was instrumental in establishing the Russian Grand Prix, which debuted in Sochi in 2014.
That same year, while at the helm of F1, Ecclestone told CNN that he “completely agrees” with Putin’s anti-gay legislation, which bans the dissemination of so-called gay propaganda to minors, arguing that critics have misrepresented Putin.
And in an interview broadcast on February 25 this year, just a day after Russia invaded Ukraine, Ecclestone described Putin as “honorable.”
“As a person, I found him very direct and honorable,” he told Times Radio. “He did exactly what he said he would do without any argument.”
Ecclestone on Nelson Piquet’s racial slur
On the British morning show, Ecclestone also commented on Nelson Piquet’s use of a racist slur directed at Lewis Hamilton, for which the Brazilian has since apologized.
Three-time world champion Piquet – who won two of his three world titles while driving for the team Ecclestone used to own, Brabham – used a Brazilian Portuguese racial slur to describe seven-time champion Hamilton as he tackled a high-speed collision involving Hamilton and Max Verstappen during the Grand Prix. England Award last year.
On Wednesday (29), Piquet addressed his comments, which were made in November last year, but only came to light recently, when the interview was released on Monday (27).
On Wednesday, Piquet addressed his comments, which were made in November of last year but only surfaced recently, when the interview was released on Monday.
Piquet said the racial slur he used had no racist intent, saying he strongly condemned “any suggestion that the word was used by me with the aim of belittling a driver because of his skin color.”
Ecclestone said he was “surprised that Lewis didn’t just put it aside, or better than that, he replied”.
He added: “It’s probably not appropriate with us, but it’s probably not something terrible that happens if you say that in Brazil.”
“But people say things, and people talk about people if they’re a little overweight, or a little undersized like me. I’m sure people have commented on it. If I had listened, I would have been able to handle this on my own without too much trouble.”
Formula 1, Hamilton’s team, Mercedes and the FIA condemned Piquet on Tuesday for using the racial slur.
Hamilton, who has the most wins in F1 history, said the “time has come to act” on racism, and responded to Piquet’s comments in a series of Twitter posts, writing: “Let’s focus on changing the mindset ”.
Source: CNN Brasil