Bernie Ecclestone: Ex-F1 boss’ comments on Putin and racism far from ‘modern values of our sport’
Formula 1 says former sporting boss Bernie Ecclestone’s comments on Vladimir Putin and racism stand in ‘sharp contrast’ to ‘modern values’.
On Thursday, Ecclestone said he would “take a bullet” for the Russian president.
The 91-year-old, who was removed as chief executive when US group Liberty Media bought F1 in 2017, added that the Russian president’s war in Ukraine “was not intentional”.
He also said Lewis Hamilton should have ‘dismissed’ the racist comments.
“Bernie Ecclestone’s comments are his personal views and stand in stark contrast to our sport’s modern values stance,” read an F1 statement.
Ecclestone struck up a relationship with Putin during the creation of the Russian Grand Prix, which debuted in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in 2014.
In 2016, Ecclestone came under fire for saying Putin was “the guy who should lead Europe”, and he became known for making provocative and outdated comments on social and political issues.
Several senior F1 officials have told BBC Sport they believe Ecclestone is playing some form of informal advisory role to the president of the FIA - motorsport’s governing body – Mohammed bin Sulayem.
But an FIA spokesperson said: “They both know each other, but there is no ongoing council and there hasn’t been since he became president, and yet that I know before that.
“There is no association there and no informal or formal council.”
In Thursday’s interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Ecclestone said: “What [Putin is] doing is something he believes is the right thing he is doing for Russia.”
When told he couldn’t justify Putin’s actions and the deaths of thousands of people, he replied, “I don’t. It wasn’t intentional.”
He said he hadn’t spoken to the Russian president since the invasion was launched in February, but added: ‘I’m absolutely sure he now wishes he hadn’t started this whole thing, but that doesn’t didn’t start as a war.”
Ecclestone also criticized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, saying he could have stopped the war by negotiating with Putin.
Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February, and the action was widely condemned by the international community. Many sports have banned the participation or organization of Russian events, and F1 has canceled the Russian GP contract.
Ecclestone added that he was “not sure” he would have made the same decision.
Speaking to the same programme, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Ecclestone’s comments about a man who had “perpetrated an appalling war” were “absolutely extraordinary”.
Ecclestone also commented on three-time world champion Nelson Piquet’s use of racist language when referring to Briton Lewis Hamilton.
hamilton responded to the comments of the Brazilian Piquet saying that “archaic mentalities must change”.
Ecclestone said he was “surprised that Lewis didn’t just brush it off, or better than that, respond.”
Piquet won two of his three world titles while driving for Ecclestone’s Brabham team.
Ecclestone said: “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 too short like me. I’m sure people have commented on that. If I had heard , I’ve been able to take care of it myself without too much trouble.”