Bernie Ecclestone defends Vladimir Putin and says Lewis Hamilton should 'brush aside' racist slur as F1 condemns comments from former boss
Bernie Ecclestone stepped down as chief executive of Formula One in 2017; 91-year-old defends Nelson Piquet who twice used a racially offensive expression when referring to Hamilton; F1 says comments "in very stark contrast" to values of the sport
Last Updated: 30/06/22 4:06pm
Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has defended Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine, saying he would "take a bullet" for the Russian President, while also claiming Lewis Hamilton "should be happy" that Nelson Piquet apologised for his use of a racial slur.
Appearing on ITV's Good Morning Britain on Thursday morning, Ecclestone came out in defence of Putin, saying he "believed he was doing the right thing for Russia", and blamed Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy for failing to engage in dialogue with his counterpart.
Formula 1 quickly distanced itself from the remarks in a statement which read: "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."
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Ecclestone, 91, said of Putin on GMB: "Unfortunately he's like a lot of business people, 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.
"The other person in Ukraine, his profession I understand, used to be a comedian - and I think it seems that he wants to continue that profession.
"I think if he'd thought about things, he would definitely have made a big enough effort to speak to Putin, who is a sensible person, and would have listened to him and could have probably done something about it."
When it was pointed out that Russia's invasion of Ukraine had claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people, Mr Ecclestone simply replied: "It wasn't intentional".
He continued: "One country invaded another, it is very clever to be able to work that out because that is exactly what happened but it wasn't intentional to be a war.
"I'm quite sure Ukraine, if they'd wanted to get out of it properly, could have done."
When then asked about Piquet's use of a racial slur in reference to Hamilton, Ecclestone claimed that Hamilton should be "happy" that he has received an apology and should just "brush aside" the remark.
"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," he said
"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."
Piquet's comments were made as he gave his views on a crash involving Hamilton and Max Verstappen, whose partner is the Brazilian former world champion's daughter.
Ecclestone said: "Nelson would never go out of his way to say anything bad, certainly. I think what probably happened, knowing Nelson as I know him, as his daughter is the girlfriend of Max Verstappen, probably after seeing the accident, he probably exploded and carried that forward.
"Well it's probably not appropriate with us. But probably it isn't something terrible that happens if you said that in Brazil.
"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 apologised so everyone should be happy."
Ecclestone later issues apology
Nine days after his initial comments, Ecclestone recorded an interview in which he attempted to clarify and apologise for his comments about Putin.
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 last war, so I know what it's like and I feel sorry for the people in Ukraine having to suffer for something they haven't done. They have done nothing wrong."
He added: "It's not good for anybody. I can't see anybody getting anything good out of this. I think they should get together and get an agreement.
"I'm sorry if anything I've said has upset anybody because it certainly wasn't intended."