Ecclestone: I'd take a bullet for Vladimir Putin

Former Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone (right) alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2018 Russian Grand Prix -- Sept. 30, 2018. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Former F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone has claimed he would take a bullet for Russian president Vladimir Putin, the man he thinks should be ruling Europe, in a bizarre interview with The Times newspaper.

Ecclestone controlled F1 from the late 1970s until 2017, when he was removed from his position by new owners Liberty Media. In the latter days of that period in charge he helped bring a Russian Grand Prix to the calendar.

Putin has attended the event on numerous occasions since its debut in 2014 and Ecclestone has remained a keen admirer of the Russian leader.

"If someone had a machine gun and was prepared to shoot Putin, I would stand in front of him..." he said in a wide-ranging interview on politics and how he plans to spend his years in retirement. "Because he's a good guy. He's never done anything that isn't doing good things for people."

When asked what he thought about the high-profile assassination attempt on the Skripals in Salisbury last year, Ecclestone said: "[Putin] didn't do that. He would be too busy to be worrying about that sort of thing. Storytellers make these things up."

Ecclestone also reiterated comments he made in 2017 that the Russian's power should extend to the entire continent of Europe.

"I would like him running Europe. We haven't got anybody, so it couldn't be any worse. He does what he says he is going to do... I am not a supporter of democracy. You need a dictator.

"As a dictator, you say, 'This is what I'm going to do'. In a democracy, it gets watered down."

On his own role in F1, which has been limited to the honorary title of chairman emeritus, he said: "It just means that I don't do any work."

But he went on to hint that he still keeps involved as best he can with people in the paddock.

"I do so many other things, I am probably busier now than when I had a job. People come and see me with different problems. I was dealing with someone this morning from one of the teams.

"I like making deals. I am really a used-car dealer."