F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia (Image: AAP/AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky)
Former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia (Image: AAP/AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky)

Bernie Ecclestone, the godfather of Formula One and subject of one of the funniest Alan Partridge bits, has long been an apologist for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Still, his rhetoric on UK morning show Good Morning Britain yesterday took things up a notch.

“What he’s doing is something that he believed was the right thing he was doing for Russia,” said the former head of F1. “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.”

Of course, Putin, in his push for legitimacy (and presumably the vanity of any dictator), has made some odd friends over the years. There's a distinctly modern flavour to the leathery older gents making friends with Putin. Sure, there were plenty of high society sorts on both sides of the Atlantic happy to defend Hitler in the 1930s, but there simply wasn't a category of celebrity equivalent to "faded action star".