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Bernie Ecclestone says using racial slur ‘is like being rude about weight’ after Lewis Hamilton hits back


Bernie Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone

Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone faces fresh criticism after drawing similarities between being called fat and being called the N-word.

In a car crash interview with Piers Morgan, the 91-year-old said he “stood behind” the comments he made about taking a bullet for Russian president Vladimir Putin.

He also defended himself against the remarks he made about former Brazilian Formula One champion driver Nelson Piquet's racial slur towards Lewis Hamilton.

Asked what he thought about the F1 driver Hamilton’s comments that voices such as his shouldn't have a platform, he said: “Complete load of rubbish.

“Because if he's referring to me, he should think a little bit. His father and myself had talked about going into business for a while. I'm not racist, quite the opposite to be honest. His comments are crazy.”

Mr Ecclestone then claimed he wasn’t sure of the racist remark that Piquet said as he was speaking Portuguese, to which Mr Morgan asked how he could defend the widely condemned comments about Hamilton.

“I’ve never met a coloured person that I’ve found I don’t like,” Mr Ecclestone said prompting a warning from Mr Morgan that his comments wouldn’t go down well with viewers.

Mr Morgan quoted him as saying: “The N-word should be treated like somebody calling you a bit undersized,” to which Mr Ecclestone replied: “Yeah, which happens all the time.”

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The presenter responded: “But Bernie, there is no equivalence between somebody calling a black person the N-word and saying that you are undersized. You must see that.”

Mr Ecclestone said: “It’s terribly rude to say somebody is undersized or is a fat person. It’s the same sort of feeling.”

When Mr Morgan argued it is not the same, Mr Ecclestone replied: “Well I don’t know, depends if you’re fat.”

These remarks came on the same day as Mr Ecclestone said he would still take a bullet for his “friend” Vladimir Putin who has launched a “special military operation” in Ukraine which has killed thousands of civilians.

When asked why he would take such drastic action, Mr Ecclestone said: “Because he’s a first-class person, and what he’s doing is something that he believed was the right thing.

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

Mr Ecclestone also made comments about the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky being a former comedian, saying: “It looks as though he wants to continue that profession.”

A spokesperson for F1 reacted to the interview, saying: “The comments made by Bernie Ecclestone are his personal views and are in very stark contrast to position of the modern values of our sport.”

The British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) suspended the honorary membership of triple Formula One world champion Piquet on Thursday after he used racially offensive language to refer to Lewis Hamilton.

The BRDC, which owns the Silverstone circuit that hosts the British Grand Prix, said in a statement it planned ultimately to terminate Piquet's membership.

It noted the 69-year-old Brazilian had apologised to the seven-times world champion but said it had a zero-tolerance policy towards racism.

A recording now reportedly shows Piquet using the slur again.

"The BRDC Board has concluded that Mr Piquet Sr's use of racially offensive language to describe a fellow BRDC member (and seven-times world champion) is unacceptable and represents conduct that is wholly inappropriate for an Honorary Member of the BRDC, notwithstanding his subsequent apology," it said in a statement.

"Accordingly, we have advised Mr Piquet Sr that his membership has been suspended with immediate effect.

"Following the Club's due process, it is anticipated that the Board will terminate Mr Piquet Sr's membership at a board meeting to be held after the required 7-day notice period."

Formula One sources have said Piquet is also no longer welcome inside the paddock, although he has not been a regular attendee.

Piquet was four times a British Grand Prix runner-up, finishing second twice at Silverstone and twice at Brands Hatch. Hamilton has won a record eight times at Silverstone.

Red Bull's reigning world champion Max Verstappen, whose partner Kelly is Piquet's daughter, told reporters banning the Brazilian from the paddock would be a wrong step.

"I think it's better to open a conversation instead of banning him," said the Dutch driver, who recognised the words used by Piquet had been offensive and should not have been used.

"When you ban people then you are actually not even helping the situation, you are not talking. You have to communicate. Communication is really important.

"If you just ban them it is not helping what you are trying to enforce, right? You are trying to educate people, so it's better to have a chat."

Verstappen said he had spent some time with Piquet and the champion was "definitely not a racist. He's actually a really nice and relaxed guy."

He also said he had not talked to Hamilton about the controversy but the Briton already knew how he felt and had his full respect.

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