Formula 1 has engaged its KERS mode in an attempt to put some serious distance between itself and its former CEO Bernie Ecclestone, who said he would “take a bullet” for Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Speaking on British TV’s Good Morning Britain, Bernie described Putin as a “first-class person” and claimed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could have been averted if Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy had done more in the run-up to the conflict.
Ecclestone, who stepped down from his position as head of F1 in 2017, and Putin became friends after Russia was added to the series’ calendar in 2014. And judging by his comments on the ITV show, Putin’s recent actions haven’t spoiled that friendship.
“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,” 91-year-old Ecclestone told presenter Kate Garraway. “What he’s doing is something that he believed was the right thing for Russia.”
Ecclestone went on to criticize Zelenskiy, leading Garraway to ask if the British billionaire believed that the conflict could have been avoided by more action on the part of the Ukraine president rather than Putin changing the course of his own actions.
“Absolutely,” Ecclestone replied. “And I’m quite sure Ukraine, if they’d wanted to get out of it properly, could have done.”
Understandably, F1 has moved rapidly to make clear its disgust at the comments from a man who once praised Hitler’s ability to “get things done.”
“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,” a spokesman for Formula 1 told the Guardian.