|Ecclestone gave Willy T Ribbs a F1 test in 1986|
(GMM) Amid controversy over allegedly racist comments, Bernie Ecclestone has received some support from a retired American racing driver.
Days after the former F1 supremo received scathing rebukes for saying that "in many cases black people are more racist than white people", Willy T Ribbs says Ecclestone actually gave him a shot at a Formula 1 career.
"He wanted me in the car. He wanted me in Formula 1," Ribbs, who tested for Ecclestone's Brabham team in 1986, told CNN.
"His sponsors at the time were Italian," said the 65-year-old former Nascar and Indycar driver. "They wanted Italian drivers, and I totally respect him. I have no issues with that.
"My goal was to be in Formula 1, but Bernie Ecclestone made a statement because Bernie Ecclestone put the first man of color, first black man, in a Formula 1 car."
Ribbs says he has "only respect" for the 89-year-old.
Mercedes has reacted to the new wave of racial politics in Formula 1 by deciding to drop its iconic silver livery in favor of an all-black one for 2020.
Germany's Bild newspaper said the idea was discussed by team boss Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton at the beginning of the recent George Floyd protests.