Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone also said the racism aimed at Lewis Hamilton by former driver Nelson Piquet was not meant as "something bad", reports Correspondent Martha Fairlie
Former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has said he would “take a bullet” for Russian President Vladimir Putin and described him as “a first-class person”.
Ecclestone was asked on ITV’s Good Morning Britain if he still regards Mr Putin as a friend and he replied: “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."
Asked about Piquet’s slur against Lewis Hamilton, he 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."
Speaking about the Russian president, the 91-year-old added: “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. When you’ve made the mistake, you have to do the best you can to get out of it.
“I think if it had been conducted properly, I mean the other person in Ukraine, I mean, his profession, I understand, he used to be a comedian.
“I think he seems as if he wants to continue that profession, because 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.”
Russia has long had an influence in Formula One, with Sochi being one of the staple locations over a typical season.
Up until the invasion of Ukraine, Russian Oligarch Dmitry Mazepin, who is understood to have close personal ties to Putin, was a principal sponsor for the Haas F1 team - Mazepin's son Nikita, also drove for the team prior to Russian athletes being barred from competition.
Mr Ecclestone has courted criticism in the past, saying Mr Putin should govern Europe and calling for women to be “dressed in white like all other domestic appliances”.
He has also claimed that female racing drivers “would not be taken seriously”.
Mr Ecclestone has said the war in Ukraine could have been avoided by actions taken by President Volodymyr Zelensky.
On Good Morning Britain, presenter Kate Garraway said: “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?”
Mr Ecclestone replied: “Absolutely.”
It was put to Mr Ecclestone that he surely could not justify the actions of Mr Putin and the deaths of thousands of people.
“I don’t. It wasn’t intentional,” he replied.
Last month, Mr Ecclestone denied he was arrested for carrying a gun before boarding a flight in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
He said the firearm, a LW Seecamp .32, was not loaded and had been packed in his luggage by accident.
Mr Ecclestone said he spent several hours with local police reporting the incident, because the gun had not been registered.
He said he had to pay 6,000 Brazilian reals (£1,000), to the local authorities, and the gun was confiscated.
Following Mr Ecclestone’s appearance on Good Morning Britain, a Formula One spokesman said: “The comments made by Bernie Ecclestone are his personal views and are in very stark contrast to the position of the modern values of our sport.”
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