Bernie Ecclestone and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2010. (Getty Images)
Former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone drew condemnation on Thursday after the 91-year-old defended Russian President Vladimir Putin in a television interview as a “first-class person” he would “take a bullet” for.
The Briton, who is no longer involved in Formula One, also told ITV’s “Good Morning Britain” that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy could have ended the Russian invasion of his country by talking to Putin.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the comments were “absolutely extraordinary.”
Formula One said in a statement they were “his personal views and are in very stark contrast to the position of the modern values of our sport.”
Ecclestone had warm relations with Putin, establishing the now-canceled Russian Grand Prix.
“He’s a first-class person, and what he’s doing is something that he believed is the right thing he was doing for Russia,” said Ecclestone, who has a history of controversial statements. Speaking of bullets, back in May Ecclestone attempted to board a plane while carrying a handgun.
Ecclestone noted that Zelenskiy was a former comedian.
“I think it seems as if he wants to continue that profession,” he said. “I think if he’d have thought about things, he would definitely have 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.”