Bernie Ecclestone finally apologises for saying he would ‘take a bullet’ for Putin
When asked whether he still stood by his friend Mr Putin, the 91 year-old said: “I would still take a bullet for him. I’d rather it didn’t hurt, but I would still take a bullet.”
He also said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February was “not intentional” and implied the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, could have done more to avoid the war.
It was reported Mr Ecclestone was expected to miss the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday following the backlash – but he has now apologised for his comments, nine days after making them.
Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: “It would probably be 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 I’ve said.
“Often people, I think, come out and say things or do things without really too much thinking. Probably I did the same, and I can understand people thinking 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. They want to get on with their lives.
“They want the kids to go to school, and try and 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.
“And I’m sorry if anything I’ve said has upset anybody because it certainly wasn’t intended.”
Formula One was quick to distance itself from the British businessman’s comments following the GMB interview, with a spokesperson saying: “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.”
It is not the first time the former F1 boss has defended the Russian president since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began earlier this year. Last month, Mr Ecclestone told Times Radio he found Mr Putin “very straightforward and honourable”. And back in 2019, he told The Times he felt the Russian leader should be “running Europe”.
“He’s a good guy,” he said then. “He’s never done anything that isn’t doing good things for people. I would like him running Europe. We haven’t got anybody, so it couldn’t be any worse.”
He added: “I am not a supporter of democracy. You need a dictator. As a dictator, you say, ‘This is what I’m going to do.’ In a democracy, it gets watered down.”