Bernie Ecclestone: Former F1 boss says he would ‘take a bullet’ for Vladimir Putin, calling him a ‘first-class person’


When asked on a British TV show good morning great britain if President Putin were still friends with him, the 91-year-old Englishman said Thursday: “I would still take a bullet for him. I’d rather it didn’t hurt, but I’d still take a bullet.” ”
Nearly five months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the conflict continues. Thousands of lives have been lost and millions displaced, according to the UN, and while Kyiv racked up a string of early victories in the initial aftermath, the tide appears to be turning in the Kremlin’s favour, 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 businessmen, certainly like me, that we make mistakes from time to time and when you make the mistake, you have to do the best you can to get out of it.”

Ecclestone, who was replaced as F1 chief executive in 2017 after nearly four decades in charge, also criticized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s handling of the invasion.


“The other person in Ukraine… I understand his profession, he used to be a comedian, and I think he seems to want to continue with that profession,” he said.

“I think if he had thought things through, he definitely would have made a lot of 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 had claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people, Ecclestone replied: “It was not intentional.”

And when 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 the modern values ​​of our sport.”

At the time of publication, the FIA, motorsport’s governing body, had not yet responded to CNN’s request for comment.

Ecclestone backed 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 for which he later apologized, saying that women should wear white “like all other household appliances.”
In 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, Ecclestone told CNN that “black people are more racist than white people.”

Following those comments, F1 issued a statement on its website saying it “didn’t fully agree” with Ecclestone.

Ecclestone and Putin have been allies for a long time. Their relationship was key in establishing the Russian Grand Prix, which made its Sochi debut in 2014.

That same year, while at the helm of F1, Ecclestone told CNN that he was “totally in agreement” with anti-gay legislation put forward by Putin, which bans the dissemination of so-called homosexual propaganda to minors, arguing that critics they had misrepresented Putin.

And in an interview broadcast on February 25 this year, just one day after Russia invaded Ukraine, Ecclestone described Putin as “honorable.”

“As a person I found it very simple and honorable,” he said. he told Times Radio. “She did exactly what he said she was going to do without any argument.”

Ecclestone on 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 racial slur in Brazilian Portuguese to describe seven-time champion Hamilton as he tackled a high-speed collision. which involved Hamilton and Max Verstappen during the British Grand Prix last year.

On Wednesday, Piquet addressed his comments, which were made in November of last year but only recently came to light when the interview was published on Monday.

Piquet said the racial slur he used had no racist intent and said he strongly condemned “any suggestion that I used the word with the aim of disparaging a driver because of the color of their skin.”

Ecclestone said he was “surprised that Lewis hasn’t ignored it, or better than that, responded”.

He added: “It’s probably not appropriate for us, but probably, it’s not a terrible thing 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 smaller than me. I’m pretty sure people have commented on it. If I had listened to it, I would.” . I would have been able to deal with that myself without too much trouble.”

Formula 1, Hamilton’s Mercedes team and the FIA ​​on Tuesday condemned Piquet for using the racial slur.

Hamilton, who has the most race wins in F1 history, said “the time has come to act” against racism and responded to Piquet’s comments in a series of posts on Twitter, writing: “We will to focus on moving to mentality” — Portuguese for “Let’s focus on changing the mentality.”

George Ramsay and Amanda Davies contributed to this report.