Formula 1 kingpin Bernie Ecclestone is under fire over a trainwreck breakfast TV appearance where he discussed his “friend” Vladimir Putin.
Formula 1 godfather Bernie Ecclestone has been slammed for claiming he’d “take a bullet” for Vladimir Putin — while dismissing Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky as a “comedian”.
The veteran former Formula 1 boss launched a bizarre rant in defence of the tyrannical Russian president, who is responsible for the horrific bloodshed in Ukraine, The Sun reports.
Wading into Russia’s war on Ukraine in an interview with Good Morning Britain, Ecclestone claimed his long-term friend Putin is a “first class person” adding the brutal deaths of innocent Ukrainians were not “intentional”.
Asked whether he still regards Putin as a friend, the 91-year-old bizarrely said: “I’d still take a bullet for Vladimir Putin. He’s a first class person.
“Unfortunately he is like a lot of business people, we make mistakes from time to time.
“When you make a mistake you have to do your best to get out of it.
“[The deaths of Ukrainians] wasn’t intentional. Look at Americans moving into countries that have nothing to do with America.”
Hosts Kate Garraway and Ben Shephard were stunned into silence by the controversial comments.
Shocked Garraway eventually said: “Crikey.”
Ecclestone made the brazen comments just days after Russian forces murdered at least 18 people with a missile strike on a packed shopping centre.
It has now been more than 120 days since Russia invaded Ukraine — with Putin’s soldiers participating in vicious atrocities including torture, rape and massacres.
Moscow has been accused by the West of committing widespread war crimes — something Putin denies — as at least 12,000 civilians including men, women and children are estimated to have been killed.
The conflict has seen Russia become an pariah state cut off from much of the rest of the world — and seen a new Iron Curtain descend as Western nations back Ukraine.
And meanwhile Ukraine’s leader Zelensky has become an international hero hailed for his resolve — even addressing the crowd at Glastonbury.
Appearing against a sunny backdrop in Ibiza, Eccelstone then took a swipe at Zelensky, saying: “I mean, the other person in Ukraine, I mean his profession I understand, he used to be a comedian and it seems he wants to continue that profession because I think if he had thought about things and 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.”
The controversial ex-F1 boss also claimed the war was not “intentional”, adding: “I’m quite sure if Ukraine wanted to get out of it properly then they could have done.”
After the interview, the F1 released a statement, saying: F1: “The comments made by Bernie Ecclestone are his personal views and are in very stark contrast to position of the modern values of our sport.”
A number of Russian athletes have been affected since their country’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in February — including F1’s Nikita Mazepin.
The driver was ditched by Haas following the outbreak of war, having finished dead last in the driver standings last season.
Ecclestone is uncomfortable with the situation, which has also seen Russian and Belarusians banned from Wimbledon, adding: “I think it’s wrong to stop Russian athletes, including drivers from taking part in their sport.
“They didn’t get involved in this in the first place so they shouldn’t be punished.”
Ecclestone went on to claim that the situation “absolutely” could have been avoided if Ukraine had “spoken with Putin”.
Asked if he was concerned about a potential backlash after aligning himself with Putin, he added: “Not at all. He’s a person that’s in business and made a mistake and wished he hadn’t made it.
“After things have happened it’s a bit too late. It could have been stopped very, very easy.
“Our friend in Ukraine [President Zelensky] could have stopped it easier couldn’t he. The best thing to have done would have spoken with Putin.”
Ecclestone has been slated online for his comments.
Former England striker Chris Sutton wrote: “Bernie Ecclestone is a moron.”
While one viewer commented: “Bernie Ecclestone embarrassing himself live on tele.”
Another tweeted: “What an absolute shambles this is from Bernie Ecclestone. Flaming heck. What a small minded idiot.”A further viewer fumed: “Bernie Ecclestone was the most infuriating, embarrassing, cringeworthy interview I’ve seen. How was the fool allowed airtime?”
— This story originally appeared on thesun.co.uk and has been republished with permission