Ecclestone apologises after inflammatory Putin comments

F1's Bernie Ecclestone pictured with Vladimir Putin, Russian Grand Prix 2016.

F1's Bernie Ecclestone pictured with Vladimir Putin, Russian Grand Prix 2016.

Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has apologised for the opinions he expressed regarding Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine.

Ecclestone has issued an apology for recent comments he made, in which he appeared to express support for Vladimir Putin and the Russian invasion on neighboring Ukraine.

Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain at the end of June, Ecclestone spoke about Putin – with whom the former F1 boss had established a relationship during F1’s visits to the Sochi Autodrom.

Speaking about Putin on the ITV show, Ecclestone said: “I’d still take a bullet for him.

“I’d rather it didn’t hurt but I’d still take a bullet because he is a first-class person and what he is doing is something he believes is the right thing, he’s doing for Russia.

“Unfortunately, he is like a lot of business people, certainly like me, we make mistakes from time to time and when you make mistakes you have to do the best you can to get out of it.

The 91-year-old also insinuated the blame for the war is on the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, saying he could have “absolutely” done more to avert it.

The comments led to F1 quickly issuing a statement to distance themselves from the comments of the former boss: “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.”

F1's Bernie Ecclestone in conversation with Vladimir Putin. Sochi, September 2017.
F1's Bernie Ecclestone in conversation with Vladimir Putin. Sochi, September 2017.

Ecclestone has come forward to apologise for the comments, appearing on Sky to explain his thinking when making the comments.

“It’s probably good for me to get some things off my chest as well, things that have been bothering me about what I said and what people think what I’ve said,” he said.

“So I think often people come out and say things or do things without really too much thinking. Probably I did the same. I can understand people thinking that I’m defending what he’s done in Ukraine, which I don’t.

“I was brought up during the war, 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’ve done nothing wrong.

“They didn’t start anything and they’ve done nothing. They want to get on with their life. They want to get to school and try to go to work and earn a living, to keep the family going. So they don’t deserve to have to suffer. It’s not good for anybody.

“I can’t see anyone getting anything out of this, and I think they should get together and get an agreement. I’m sorry if it’s anything I’ve said that’s upsetting anybody because it certainly wasn’t intended.”

With Ecclestone’s comments coming in the same week as three-time F1 World Champion Nelson Piquet making headlines for making disparaging comments about Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time World Champion expressed his opinion that a platform shouldn’t be given to the ageing stars of the sport whose views don’t align with that of the sport in general.

He also expressed his dismay at Ecclestone’s comments, saying: “We don’t need any more of it, to hear from someone that believes in the war, and the displacement of people and killing of people, and supporting that person (Putin) is beyond me.

“I cannot believe I heard that. This is going to put us back decades, and we have yet to see the real brunt of the pain. Why? We do not need to be supporting that but looking into the future.

“If you don’t have anything positive to contribute, don’t give them any space.”