F1: Ecclestone, Marko disagree over Putin

(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has risked condemnation by describing Russian president Vladimir Putin as “straightforward and honorable”.

Putin is being almost universally slammed for his incursion into Ukraine which is affecting every corner of the globe, including Formula 1.

Chase Cary, Vladimir Putin and Bernie Ecclestone – Sochi 2019

But Ecclestone, 91, defended the 69-year-old former KGB officer, with whom he conceived the current Russian GP in the resort city Sochi which has just been cancelled for 2022.

“As a person I found him very straightforward and honorable,” Ecclestone told Times Radio.

“He did exactly what he said he was going to do without any arguments.”

Ecclestone criticizes the Sochi axe, arguing that it is “not going to make any difference to anything else that has happened in the world”.

“Maybe other people think it was the right thing for Russia to do,” he said. “So how can anyone else judge exactly what is happening there today?”

The Briton also dismissed the impact of Sebastian Vettel’s threat to boycott the race if it gets the green light once again, insisting he is “just one person in the event”.

Vladimir Putin and Lewis Hamilton share a laugh on the podium – Sochi 2018

Ecclestone normally finds backing for some of his more controversial statements from Red Bull’s tough top executive Dr Helmut Marko – but not on this topic.

“It was very clear from our drivers that they don’t want to drive in a country that has triggered such a war of aggression,” he told RTL.

“It is actually unimaginable that something like this could happen. Then when you see the brutality with which they are proceeding and the threatening gestures, it’s all very, very frightening,” Marko, 78, added.

The Austrian is now hoping widespread international sanctions, including cancellation of the Russian GP, will have an impact on forthcoming “peace talks”.

“The positive side for me now is the cohesion within Europe,” said Marko. “The fact that they are showing ‘you cannot do this’.

“I can only fully understand all the sanctions and support them personally.”

However, Marko also has some criticism of Europe, including the realization that “we criminally neglected spending on the military”.

“We all believed, in our war-free state, that we can rely on laws and regulations,” he said.

Marko said axing Sochi is “the only right thing” to do.

“Sport is a way to present and distinguish yourself. It would only be counterproductive if we gave Russia the chance to position itself positively again to a worldwide audience with a grand prix,” he added.


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