Ex-F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone says he ‘would still take a bullet’ for Vladimir Putin

Former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has told Good Morning Britain he would “still take a bullet” for Vladimir Putin, as well as suggesting Nelson Piquet’s comments about Lewis Hamilton were not meant as racist.

Speaking to hosts Kate Garrarway and Ben Shepherd, Bernie showed his support behind both Putin and Piquet – in a very controversial appearance on the morning show.

As well as showing his support for Putin, he also aired his disdain for Ukrainian President Zelensky.

Being asked about Piquet’s racial slur against Lewis Hamilton, Bernie said: “I’ve known him for a very long time. It’s not the sort of thing Nelson would say meaning something bad. To him it’s nothing. Just part of conversation. He would never go out of his way to say anything bad.

“As his daughter is the girlfriend of Max Verstappen, probably after seeing the accident he probably exploded and carried that forward.

“I exploded, didn’t say anything obviously. He was upset with the accident thinking it was wrong and thinking it was Lewis' fault. I thought it was.”

He also compared use of the racial slur to being called “overweight or undersized”, saying “I’m surprised Lewis hasn’t brushed it aside.”

When asked about the term in question, Ecclestone added: "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."

After Piquet's comments came to light, Hamilton posted on Twitter : "It's more than language. These archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport.

"I've been surrounded by these attitudes and targeted my whole life. There has been plenty of time to learn. Time has come for action."

Piquet did apologise, but stopped short of admitting racism, replying: "I would never use the word I have been accused of in some translations. I strongly condemn any suggestion that the word was used by me with the aim of belittling a driver because of his skin colour.

“I apologise wholeheartedly to anyone that was affected, including Lewis, who is an incredible driver. But the translation in some media that is now circulating on social media is not correct.

"Discrimination has no place in F1 or society and I am happy to clarify my thoughts in that respect.”

Kate asked if he still regarded Putin as a friend, after saying in 2019 he would take a bullet for him.

Bernie said: “I’d still take a bullet for him. He’s a first class person and what he’s doing is something he believes is the right thing for Russia. Unfortunately, he’s like a lot of business people, we make mistakes from time to time.

"I mean, the other person in Ukraine, I mean his profession I understand, he used to be a comedian and it seems he wants to continue that profession because I think if he had thought about things and 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," Bernie continued.

Ben seemed shocked and replied: "Bernie, what we have are the actions of Putin and the war that he started in Ukraine has led to the death of thousands of innocent Ukrainians, you can't justify that surely?"

"It wasn't intentional," Bernie replied, before adding: "Look at the times America has moved into different countries which is nothing to do with America."

Kate then clarified: "So just to understand you clearly, you think that President Zelensky should have done more to avert this war and it could have been avoided by Zelensky's actions, not by a change in Putin's actions?"

"Absolutely," Bernie replied, as Kate asked him to explain himself.

"It wasn't intentional to be a war, and I'm quite sure if Ukraine had wanted to get out of it properly, they could have done," Bernie said calmly.

Kate then said: "Are you worried at all about aligning yourself with Vladimir Putin?"

"Not at all, not at all. He's a person that probably if he was in business he'd made a mistake and wish he hadn't had made it, but after things have happened, it's a bit too late. It could have been stopped very, very easy," Bernie replied.


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