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‘This is going to put us back decades’ – Lewis Hamilton hits out at former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone over Putin support

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Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton

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, Mr 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 business people, 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.”

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

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

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“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.”

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.”

Hamilton also called for Ecclestone and Sir Jackie Stewart to be censored, and declared “enough is enough” after Nelson Piquet's racial slur.

The seven-time world champion was speaking ahead of this weekend's British Grand Prix - days after 69-year-old Piquet's offensive reference to Hamilton emerged from a podcast recorded last November.

Triple world champion Stewart, 83, said recently that Hamilton should “resign” after struggling for results this season.

“I don't know why we are continuing to give these older voices a platform,” said Hamilton.

“They are speaking for our sport, but we are looking to go somewhere different and they are not representative of who we are now in the sport and where we are planning to go.

“If we are looking to grow our audiences in places like the US and South Africa, we need to be giving the younger people a platform that is more representative of today's time and who we are trying to be.

“It is not just about one individual, or the use of that term (by Piquet), but the bigger picture.”

Hamilton, 37, continued: "I put to F1 and to the media that we should not be giving these people a platform - these old voices, who, whether it is subconscious or conscious, do not agree people like me should be in this sport.

“I don't think in the last couple of weeks a day has gone by where some of the older people, who have not been relevant in our sport for decades, are trying to say negative things and bring me down.

“But I am still here, still standing strong and trying to do my work and pushing diversity. Discrimination exists. It is still all around us. Enough is enough.

“I have tried to take that high road and avoid it, but no one should have to brush off racism and it shouldn't be for me to have to brush it off. We need big organisations to take a stand.”

Hamilton faces a run-in with the governing FIA this weekend over his nose stud. Hamilton's latest medical exemption expired on Thursday, but he appeared for his press conference with the item of jewellery still in place.

Discussions between both parties remain ongoing but Hamilton could be summoned by the stewards if he refuses to take the piercing - which he says cannot be easily removed - out for first practice on Friday.

“It is kind of crazy with all that is going on in the world, that this is the focus for people,” said Hamilton.

“I would say it is worrying. We have so much bigger fish to fry. We need to focus on other important areas.

“I will be racing this weekend and working with the FIA. The matter is not massively important so I will work with [FIA president] Mohammed [ben Sulayem] and his team to progress forward.”


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