Inside Bernie Ecclestone’s adoration of long-time friend Vladimir Putin

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 (AFP/Getty Images)
(AFP/Getty Images)

Bernie Ecclestone has said he’d “still take a bullet” for long-time friend and Russian president, Vladimir Putin, despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ecclestone and Putin’s unlikely friendship dates back to at least 2010, when the Russian president and British billionaire signed an agreement to bring Formula One racing to Sochi for a Grand Prix to be held in 2014. The seven-year deal was reportedly worth £125 million.

Ecclestone and Putin were photographed sitting together at the Russian Grand Prix every year between 2014 and 2018.

Even now, amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, Ecclestone has come out in support of his friend.

In an interview with Good Morning Britain, when Ecclestone was asked if he still regards Mr Putin as a friend, he 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’s a first-class person.”

He went on to defend the Russian president’s actions on Ukraine, saying: “What he’s doing is something that he believed was the right thing he was doing for Russia.

Bernie Ecclestone’s friendship with Vladimir Putin

“Unfortunately, he’s like a lot of business people, certainly like me, we make mistakes from time to time. When you’ve made the mistake, you have to do the best you can to get out of it.

Ecclestone also claimed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky could have “made a big enough effort to speak to Mr Putin” before the invasion. The former Formula One boss said: “I think if it had been conducted properly, I mean the other person in Ukraine (Zelensky), I mean, his profession, I understand, he used to be a comedian.

“I think he seems as if he wants to continue that profession, because I think if he’d have thought about things, he would have definitely 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.”

His comments have sparked widespread criticism, with Formula One distancing itself from its former boss.

A Formula One spokesperson said: “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.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Despite the shock his comments have elicited, this isn’t even the first time the business magnate has said he’d give his life for Putin.

In a 2019 interview with The Times, Ecclestone said: “If someone had a machine gun and was prepared to shoot Putin, I would stand in front of him.

“Because he’s a good guy. He’s never done anything that isn’t doing good things for people.”

He justified the invasion of Crimea by saying Putin “wanted to bring Russia back together again,” and that he didn’t attempt to assassinate the Skripals because “he would be too busy to be worrying about that sort of thing,” adding, “Storytellers make these things up.”

Ecclestone even told The Times that he would “like him running Europe.”

“We haven’t got anybody, so it couldn’t be any worse. He does what he says he is going to do… I am not a supporter of democracy. You need a dictator. As a dictator, you say, ‘This is what I am going to do.’ In a democracy, it gets watered down.”

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

The interview with The Times was at least the second time he voiced his support for Putin leading Europe.

Amid the Brexit debate in 2016, and ahead of the referendum vote, Eccleston told the WPP chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell, during a conversation at Advertising Week Europe in London: “I think Europe has become less important, full stop.

When Sorrell pointed out that Ecclestone admired Putin, Ecclestone replied: “He should be running Europe.”

Sorrell asked him: “He should be in Brussels running Europe?” to which Ecclestone replied: “No, we should get rid of Brussels and he should just be in charge.

“He does what he says he’s gonna do, he gets the job done. I mean people don’t understand exactly what he wants to do… He wants to put Russia back to what it was.”

Ecclestone’s recent comments have seen him double down on his opinion on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In February this year, before the Russian Grand Prix was cancelled following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ecclestone told Times Radio: "As a person I found [Putin] very straightforward and honourable," he said. "He did exactly what he said he was going to do without any arguments."

He went on to speak about whether the Grand Prix would be cancelled and said: "It’s not going to make any difference if there is a race in Russia to anything else that has happened in the world.

"I suppose it is the people who are engaged in the event who would decide on it, because maybe other people think it was the right thing for Russia to do. So how can anyone else judge exactly what is happening today?”

 (AP)
(AP)
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