Former Formula 1 CEO Said He Would Take A Bullet For Vladimir Putin, Adding To Sport's Recent Controversies

Zinger Key Points
  • Former Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone praised Vladimir Putin in a recent interview.
  • The global racing sport has previously faced controversial comments from its former CEO.

The global racing sport of Formula One is seeing strong viewership and an increased fan base. The sport may find itself in PR crisis mode with its former CEO of 40-plus years making some positive comments about one of the most hated men in the world, adding to the recent controversy of people tied to the league.

What Happened: Former Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone spoke recently about Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview with ITV’s “Good Morning Britain,” as shared by Deadline.

In the interview, Ecclestone referred to Putin as a “first-class person” and said he would “take a bullet” for him. Ecclestone has spent time with Putin.

The former Formula One CEO said Putin was doing “something he believed was the right thing for Russia.”

Perhaps backpedaling a bit, Ecclestone later said Putin’s move could be “like a lot of business people, we make a mistake from time to time.”

Ecclestone went on to blame Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the conflict.

“The other person in Ukraine used to be a comedian and I think he seems as if he wants to continue that profession,” Ecclestone said. “If he’d thought about things he’d have made a bigger effort to speak to Putin, who’s a sensible person and would have listened to him and done something about it.”

Ecclestone also added a comment that the U.S. likes wars “because they sell a lot of arms.”

Formula One distanced itself from Ecclestone’s comments, something it has been doing lately with Ecclestone and others affiliated with the sport.

“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 Formula One spokesperson said.

Related Link: 5 Things You Might Not Know About Formula One Driver Lewis Hamilton 

Why It’s Important: Ecclestone has been a part of Formula One since the 1950s and served as the CEO for more than 40 years before being replaced in 2017. Formula One is owned by Liberty Formula One Group FWONAFWONK.

Comments from Ecclestone about Putin come two years after his comments about racism.

In an interview with CNN, Ecclestone said Black people are often “more racist than white people.” The former CEO criticized the diversity efforts by driver Lewis Hamilton wouldn’t amount to anything.

Formula One issued a statement on the racist comments two years ago and distanced itself from its former CEO.

“At a time when unity is needed to tackle racism and inequality, we completely disagree with Bernie Ecclestone’s comments that have no place in Formula One or society,” a statement said.

The league said Ecclestone has played no role in Formula One since 2017 and his honorary title of chairman emeritus expired in January 2020.

Ecclestone praised former German leader Adolf Hitler in 2009 for being “able to get things done” and previously backed policies by Putin, according to CNN.

Earlier this year, Formula One canceled the Russian Grand Prix, a race that was set to be held in Sochi, Russia in September 2022, due to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

The recent comments by Ecclestone come just days after former Formula One former champion Nelson Piquet was found using racist slurs about Hamilton.

“It’s more than language. These archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport. I’ve been surrounded by these attitudes and targeted my whole life. Time has come for action,” Hamilton said of Piquet’s comments.

Benzinga’s Take: As Formula One seeks to continue its international growth, it finds itself in a tough place of honoring the legacy of builders such as Ecclestone and Piquet who increased the fan base for the sport.

Comments from old-timers of the sport could upset fans and drivers and lead to demands for punishment.

As a global sport, the league is in a place where some fans and drivers may not agree with holding events in certain markets, something the league has to balance carefully.

As a publicly-traded company, Formula One also has shareholders to consider, which made it a no-brainer to distance itself further from Ecclestone and a need to punish Piquet to further push diversity in the sport.


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Posted In: NewsPoliticsSportsGeneralBernie EcclestoneFormula 1Formula OneLewis Hamiltonprofessional sports leaguesRussiaUkraineVladimir PutinVolodymyr Zelensky
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