Bernie Ecclestone pops up on the radar when attention on Formula 1 is high – aka British Grand Prix weekend – as this time, the deposed former F1 supremo, came out in support of Vladimir Putin, even happy to “take a bullet” for the man if required.
This, obviously, is amid a background of an ongoing war the Russian president started and continues to wage against Ukraine after invading the country earlier this year and with it the repercussions of sanctions having hit the global economy severely.
F1 cancelled the Russian Grand Prix inevitably in the wake of the invasion which began on 24 February 2022.
It is no secret that Ecclestone is a big fan of Putin, and it was largely to his sit-downs with Putin to arrange the first Grand Prix in Russia, which saw the Russian president attend races, seated alongside Ecclestone in the Presidential VIP box at Sochi Autodrome.
Today (video above) Ecclestone echoed his well-known sentiments about Putin during ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I’d still take a bullet for him. I’d rather it didn’t hurt, but if it does I’d still take a bullet because he’s a first-class person.
“What he’s doing is something that he believed was the right thing he was doing for Russia. Unfortunately, he’s like a lot of business people, certainly like me, we make mistakes from time to time.”
Bernie: When you’ve made the mistake, you have to do the best you can to get out of it.
Ecclestone continued: “If it had been conducted properly, I mean the other person in Ukraine (Mr. Zelensky), I mean, his profession, I understand, he used to be a comedian. He seems as if he wants to continue that profession.
“I think if he’d have thought about things, he would have definitely made a big enough effort to speak to Mr. Putin, who is a sensible person and would have listened to him and could have probably done something about it.”
Ecclestone was asked to clarify that he believed President Zelensky should have done more to avert this war, not by a change in Putin’s actions?
“Absolutely,” replied Ecclestone, before saying of the deaths caused by the invasion were not “intentional” and added: “I’m quite sure Ukraine if they’d wanted to get out of it properly, could have done.
“[Putin’s] probably thought about that himself. He probably doesn’t need reminding. I’m absolutely sure he now wishes he hadn’t started this whole business but didn’t start as a war.”
Ecclestone also came out in support of Russian athletes suffering the burden of the war, Nikita Mazepin an F1 driver forced to relinquish his seat at Haas, despite big-money sponsorship from Russian potash giant Uralkali.
The outbreak of the war put an end to all the bells and whistles that come with being a Putin supporter or affiliate. Russian sports professionals paying the price.
Ecclestone: Knowing Nelson, he probably exploded then and sort of carried that forward
The 91-year-old also weighed in on the Nelson Piquet racist slur comment: “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 then and sort of carried that forward.
“I know his feelings because I was alone, I exploded, didn’t say anything obviously because there wouldn’t have been any point because there was nobody there to hear my reaction to that.
“So that’s probably what his problem was. He was upset with the accident, thinking it was wrong, and probably thinking it was Lewis’s fault – I did as well, as it happens
“Anyway, that’s probably what he thought and he probably exploded about that,” ventured Ecclestone who was Piquet’s boss at Brabham for seven years, (1979 to 1985) winning two F1 world titles (1981 and 1983) in the process.