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Bernie Ecclestone to miss Austrian Grand Prix following uproar over his backing of Vladimir Putin

Bernie Ecclestone has decided to miss this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix after his controversial comments shook up the sport last week.

Formula One’s former ruler said he would ‘take a bullet’ for Vladimir Putin, whom he described as a ‘first-class person’. 

He also suggested Lewis Hamilton should have ‘brushed aside’ a racist term used against him by triple world champion Nelson Piquet.

Formula One Group, who own the sport, flatly condemned Ecclestone’s remarks, describing them as in ‘stark contrast’ to the ‘modern values of our sport’.

So it was clear that the current regime were wary about the 91-year-old’s presence at the track, despite an open invitation – which still stands – from the Red Bull Ring’s billionaire owner Dietrich Mateschitz to be his guest. He even offered to put Ecclestone up at his house.

But a source told Sportsmail: ‘The potential problem of Bernie showing up seems to have gone away.’

91-year-old Bernie Ecclestone said that he would ‘take a bullet’ for President Vladimir Putin

Ecclestone, 91, ran Formula One for four decades, turning it into a multi-billion-dollar business before losing day-to-day control in 2017, when Liberty Media bought the business. 

In a bizarre interview on Good Morning Britain, Ecclestone branded 69-year-old dictator Putin a ‘first class person’ and ‘sensible’, before telling Hamilton he should ‘brush aside’ Piquet’s racial slur and ‘be happy’ with his apology.

Hamilton, speaking in the toxic build-up to Sunday’s British Grand Prix, hit back at the likes of Ecclestone and Piquet, claiming they should be ‘silenced’.

‘I don’t know why we are continuing to give these older voices a platform,’ he said.

In a bizarre interview on Good Morning Britain, former Formula 1 owner Bernie Ecclestone, 91, branded 69-year-old dictator Vladimir Putin a 'first class person' and 'sensible.'

In a bizarre interview on Good Morning Britain, former Formula 1 owner Bernie Ecclestone, 91, branded 69-year-old dictator Vladimir Putin a ‘first class person’ and ‘sensible.’

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

‘If we are looking to grow our audiences in the US and South Africa we need to be giving the younger people a platform. They are 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, but the bigger picture.

‘These older voices, subconsciously or consciously, do not agree people like me should be in this sport. Discrimination should not be projected.

‘I don’t think in the last couple of weeks a day has gone by where some of the older people who are not in our sport or have not been relevant in our sport for decades have tried to say negative things and bring me down, but I am still here and still standing strong and trying to do my work and pushing diversity.’

Referring to Ecclestone’s interview, Hamilton added: ‘There needs to be some accountability. You know what you are going to get with that and I don’t know what GMB’s goal is, if they were seeking to create and divide here in the UK.

Three-time champion Nelson Piquet has been banned for life from attending any F1 event

Three-time champion Nelson Piquet has been banned for life from attending any F1 event 

‘We don’t need any more of it, to hear from someone that believes in the war, and the displacement of millions of people and killing of thousands people, and supports that person [Putin] who is doing that.

‘It is beyond me. I cannot believe I heard that today. It is affecting all those people out there and all people around the world. This is going to put us back decades, and we have yet to see the real brunt of the pain.’

Comments from another triple world champion Piquet, 69, came to light last week in which he referred to Hamilton as a ‘neguinho’, a Portuguese term which can be translated as ‘n*****’. 

Piquet apologised and claimed it was a colloquial and inoffensive phrase. But Formula One Group, the sport’s commercial rights holders banned him for life.

Hamilton questioned why the likes of Eccleston and Piquet are given a platform in the sport

Hamilton questioned why the likes of Eccleston and Piquet are given a platform in the sport

They have not sought to ban Ecclestone, though they distanced themselves strongly from his remarks, saying: ‘The comments made by Bernie Ecclestone are his personal views and are in very start contrast to the modern values of our sport.’ 

The issue dominated the lead-up to the race and spilled over into qualifying on Saturday. Red Bull driver Max Verstappen was booed after he leapt to the defence of Piquet, claiming he is ‘not a racist’ and that it was ‘wrong’ to ban the controversial Brazilian from the sport.

The world champion, whose girlfriend Kelly Piquet is the Brazilian triple world champion’s daughter, also claimed the offensive remarks have been blown out of proportion. 

The British driver said he 'definitely' did not agree with the booing of Max Verstappen

The British driver said he ‘definitely’ did not agree with the booing of Max Verstappen

But Hamilton disagreed with the hostile reception given to Verstappen. ‘I think we’re better than that. I would say we don’t need to do the booing.

‘We have such great fans, our sporting fans feel emotions up and down, but I definitely don’t agree with booing. I don’t think we need to do that.’

‘I think we should be here pushing everybody. It doesn’t make any difference when you boo someone, they’ve already made the mistake, or whatever it is.’

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk