Formula One has distanced itself from remarks made by former chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, who said he would take a bullet for Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has been friends with Putin since the introduction of the Russian Grand Prix in 2014, and said Russia's invasion of Ukraine could have been avoided if the latter's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, had done more.
Asked on ITV's Good Morning Britain if he still regards Putin as a friend, the 91-year-old billionaire said: 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 is a first-class person. He believes that what he is doing for Russia is the right thing he is doing. After his appearance, a Formula One spokeswoman said: "The comments made by Bernie Ecclestone are his personal views and are in stark contrast to the position of modern values of our sport." Ecclestone, who announced in 2020 the birth of his fourth child, with his wife Fabiana Flosi, 45, is no stranger to controversial remarks.
In a 2009 Times interview he seemed to praise Adolf Hitler: Terrible to say this, but apart from the fact that Hitler was taken away and persuaded to do things that I don't know whether he wanted to do or not, he was in the way that he could command a lot of people able to get things done. He went on to criticise Zelenskiy, to the incredulity of the Good Morning Britain presenter Kate Garraway, who asked: So just to understand you clearly, you think President Zelenskiy should have done more to avert this war and that it could have been avoided by Zelenskiy's actions, not by a change in Putin's actions? He said that the war in Ukraine was not intentional and that Ukraine, if they wanted to get out of it properly, could have done it. Ecclestone said he hasn't had a chance to speak to Putin about what a mess the situation is or urged him to rethink what he is doing. He probably doesn't need to be reminded. I am absolutely certain he now wishes he hadn't started this whole business, but it didn't start as a war.