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Lewis Hamilton says Bernie Ecclestone’s comments were dangerous for the sport. Photo: AFP

Lewis Hamilton says Ecclestone’s comments on Putin will ‘put us back decades’

  • Former F1 boss said he would ‘take a bullet’ for Russian president Vladimir Putin and described him as a ‘first-class person’
  • Hamilton, a seven-time Formula 1 world champion, argued Ecclestone was an ‘older voice’ who no longer represented the sport

Lewis Hamilton has hit out at former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, warning that his praise for Vladimir Putin will “put us back decades.”

The racing driver urged broadcasters to shun the 91-year-old and said that someone who supported “killing” people should not be given a platform.

Interviewed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Thursday, Ecclestone described the Russian president as a “first-class person” and appeared to downplay his invasion of Ukraine.

“What he’s doing is something that he believed was the right thing he was doing for Russia,” he said.

“Unfortunately, he’s like a lot of businesspeople, certainly like me, we make mistakes from time to time.

“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.”

Ecclestone is an ‘older voice’ who no longer represents the sport, says Hamilton. Photo: Reuters

Ecclestone added that the war could have been averted if Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, made “a big enough effort” to speak to Putin.

Hamilton, a seven-time Formula 1 world champion, argued that Ecclestone was an “older voice” who no longer represented the sport.

“We don’t need any more of it, to hear from someone that believes in the war, and the displacement of people and killing of people, and supporting that person [Putin] is beyond me,” he said.

“I cannot believe I heard that. This is going to put us back decades, and we have yet to see the real brunt of the pain.

“Why? We do not need to be supporting that but looking into the future.

“If you don’t have anything positive to contribute, don’t give them any space.”

Missile strikes kill 21 in Odesa after Ukraine retakes Snake Island

F1 also moved to distance itself from the remarks of its former boss, who ruled the sport for four decades until departing in 2017.

A 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.”

Ecclestone later doubled down on his criticisms of President Zelensky in a TalkTV interview, arguing that he should have surrendered to avoid a war.


100 days of war: What has happened in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion?

100 days of war: What has happened in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion?

“I’d have found a very dignified way to do that because that’s probably what will have to happen anyway,” he said.

“He’s looking for a bit of publicity, nobody had ever heard of him before.

“Now he’s talking to the press and the United States and everybody else … when it’s being televised and broadcast worldwide.”

The billionaire also appeared to endorse Putin’s claims to Ukraine, repeatedly claiming that Ukrainians were “all Russian people.”

Ecclestone told AFP that the furore over his remarks on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were “good publicity for Silverstone”, which is hosting this weekend’s British Grand Prix.

Russia fights to encircle Ukraine’s last eastern stronghold

Ecclestone built a warm working relationship with Putin while negotiating to bring the Formula One caravan to Russia in 2014 at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

After the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, this year’s race was cancelled by Formula One which Ecclestone said at the time did not “make sense.”

Formula One have since terminated their contract for races in Russia.

Ecclestone -who left his position as CEO of F1 in January 2017 following Liberty Media’s takeover – said he stood by his controversial criticism of Ukraine standing up to Russia’s aggression.