In an interview apparently designed to shock the world west of Moscow, former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone denounced the poisoning of the Skirpals as “fake news” and said he would carry a bullet for Russian “good boy” Vladimir Putin.
Ecclestone controlled F1 from the late 1970s until 2017, when he was removed from his position by new owners Liberty Media. In the latter days of that period in charge he helped bring a Russian Grand Prix to the calendar.
Putin has attended the event on numerous occasions since its debut in 2014 and Ecclestone has remained a keen admirer of the Russian leader.
Speaking to the British newspaper The Times, the 88-year-old billionaire said Putin was “too busy” to have ordered the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury last March, reporting on Russian involvement in the case as “fake news.”
Ecclestone was even more clear about his admiration for the Russian leader.
“If someone had a machine gun and was prepared to shoot Putin, I would stand in front of him,” Ecclestone said. “Because he’s a good guy. He’s never done anything that isn’t doing good things for people.”
Forget about the Mays and Macrons and Merkels: Putin should be “running Europe,” he recommended. “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’m going to do’. In a democracy, it gets watered down,” he said.
Predictably, commenters were a mix of puzzled and enraged. “Are we really so surprised that Bernie Ecclestone has horrendous views?!,” tweeted one, while others called the F1 chief a “fascist” and a “punk.”
The British billionaire led negotiations with Russian authorities to host a Formula One stage from 2014 in Sochi. The contract with the category is valid for seven seasons.