Defending Putin’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Bernie said Putin was doing what he believes “is the right thing” for Russia and claimed the deaths of thousands Ukrainian civilians as “not intentional”.
He added: “Unfortunately, he’s like a lot of business people, like me, we make mistakes from time to time.”
So why is Bernie famous?
The 91-year-old was previously the head of F1 motor racing, and so was often described as the “F1 Supremo”.
He stepped down in 2017 and is no longer involved in the running of the sport, although he is still considered a public figure.
He is married to Fabiana Ecclestone, a FIA vice-president and member of the World Motor Sport Council.
Bernie has been involved in a range of controversies, including with the Labour Party over its proposed ban on tobacco advertising in the 1990s.
In a later interview with the Times in 2009, Ecclestone caused further alarm when he said: “Terrible to say this I suppose but apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he was – in the way that he could command a lot of people – able to get things done.”
He later apologised for these remarks, saying: “I’m just sorry I was an idiot.”
Discussing the UK in the same piece, he said: “If you have a look at democracy, it hasn’t done a lot of good for many countries – including this one.”
Bernie was also arrested in May this year for illegally carrying a firearm onto a private plane to Switzerland, but was later freed after paying bail in Brazil.
What’s his relationship with Putin?
Bernie allegedly bonded with the Russian president during the 2014 Russian Grand Prix.
He went on to tell The Times newspaper in 2019 that he would like to see Putin “running Europe”.
Bernie claimed: “He’s a good guy, he’s never done anything that isn’t doing good things for people.”
Just earlier this year, he described Putin as “very straightforward and honourable” during an interview with Times Radio.
But it was his controversial comments about Putin on Thursday’s GMB – where Bernie also said Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy should have listened to Putin in the first place – which pushed the F1 to publicly distance itself from him.
“The comments made by Bernie Ecclestone are his personal views and are in very stark contrast to position of the modern values of the sport,” F1 said in a statement.