Ecclestone's Hitler remarks condemned
|By Jontathan Noble
||Sunday, July 5th 2009, 08:11 GMT
Formula 1 has found itself back in the headlines for the wrong reasons thanks to controversial comments made by Bernie Ecclestone in interview suggesting praise for the fact that Adolf Hitler 'got things done'.
Just a week after grand prix racing thrust itself to the top of news programmes and the front pages of newspapers after teams briefly launched a breakaway championship, an Ecclestone interview in The Times has put the focus back on the sport once again.
In the lengthy interview, where Ecclestone talks about life and politics rather than racing, F1's commercial rights holder makes no bones about his belief that strong dictators are best.
When asked if he had a favourite historical dictator, like Stalin or Napoleon, Ecclestone said: "Maggie's [Margaret Thatcher's] gone.
"In a lot of ways, 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.
"In the end he got lost so he wasn't a very good dictator. Either he knew what was going on and insisted, or he just went along with it — either way he wasn't a dictator."
Ecclestone also questioned the more up-to-date western foreign policy of going after the Taleban and Saddam Hussein.
"Politicians are too worried about elections," he explained. "We did a terrible thing when we supported the idea of getting rid of Saddam Hussein, he was the only one who could control that country. It was the same [with the Taleban]. We move into countries and we have no idea of the culture. The Americans probably thought Bosnia was a town in Miami. There are people starving in Africa and we sit back and do nothing, but we get involved in things we should leave alone."
And he also vented his frustration at environmentalists who criticise F1.
"I was on the Fulham Road the other day and there were six buses lined up empty," he said. "I thought, 'Don't complain about us'. Thirty seconds of the Red Arrows at Silverstone use more fuel than we use in a week."
It is Ecclestone's comments on Hitler that have caused the most controversy, however, with them receiving widespread media coverage worldwide - and damnation from politicians and Jewish organisations.
Conservative John Whittingdale, chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, told The Daily Mail: "These are extraordinary views and I'm appalled that anybody could hold them."
A senior F1 insider told AUTOSPORT that he feared for the damage being caused to the sport by Ecclestone's comments, and suggested the controversial remarks were evidence that the time had come for him to step down from his control of grand prix racing.
"The saddest thing about it is that no-one close to him has got the guts to put a hand on his shoulder and say: 'You aren't the man you used to be and it's time to call it a day.'" said the source. "And the man who should do it is Max."