Including Lewis Hamilton, six-time world champion and the first and only black driver to compete in F1, who was a powerful voice after Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last month.
Hamilton joined the protests, created the Hamilton Commission to increase diversity in motorsport and called on the “biggest stars” in F1 to “remain silent … in the midst of injustice”.
Ecclestone, who was replaced as general manager of Formula 1 in 2017 after nearly four decades in office, praised Hamilton’s approach to equality.
“Lewis is a bit special,” said Ecclestone, who now has an advisory role to F1 as president emeritus, told Amanda Davies of CNN Sport.
“First, he is very, very, very talented as a pilot and now seems to be extremely talented when he stands up and can make speeches.
“This last campaign he does for black people is wonderful. He does a great job and it’s people like that – easily recognizable – that people listen to. ““COMPLETELY STUPID DELETING ALL THESE STATUES”
However, Ecclestone does not believe that incentives like the Hamilton Commission will have a tangible impact on the sport.
“I don’t think it will hurt or do good for Formula One,” he said.
“It will only make people think, which is more important. I think it’s the same for everyone. People should think a little bit and think, “Well, what the hell. Someone is not the same as whites and blacks should think the same is true for whites.
“In many cases, black people are more racist than white people.”
CNN disputed Ecclestone’s claim, and it was unable to provide concrete evidence for this baseless allegation beyond saying that it had “noticed” it over the years.
The 89-year-old went on to say that changing attitudes toward race would not be “easily”, scorning the dismantling of the statues of the slave trade figures – a decision made by Hamilton when the Edward Colston statue was was demolished in the English city of Bristol.
“I think they should start being taught in school,” said Ecclestone.
“So they grow up without having to think about these things. I think it’s completely stupid to remove all these statues. They should have left them there. Take the kids from school to find out and say why they are there and what people did and how bad it was what they did. ”
During his tenure at the helm of F1, Ecclestone brought more races to new areas and sparked new interest in the sport.
The season before Liberty Media’s $ 8 billion takeover in 2017 drew 400 million unique viewers in 200 territories. The 2016 championship saw 21 races in 21 countries and five continents.
In April, billionaire Ecclestone and his wife Fabiana Flosi, 44, announced that they were expecting a baby. Ecclestone’s fourth child will be born this summer and when the announcement was made, he said he saw no difference “between the ages of 89 and 29”.
The Briton is no stranger to controversy.
In 2009, he praised Adolf Hitler for “being able to get things done” – comments for which he later apologized – while he also supported Vladimir Putin’s controversial homosexual policy and said that women should dress in white “like all other household appliances.” “
“NOBODY DID EVERYTHING”
Reigning world champion Hamilton recently called F1 “white dominated sport”, while the governing body has just launched the #WeRaceAsOne initiative to tackle the challenges of COVID-19 and condemn the racism and inequality.
A working group was then set up to increase diversity and inclusion in F1, alongside a foundation to help fund internships and apprenticeships for under-represented groups.
Asked whether F1 should have done more to address the issue of diversity and inclusion, Ecclestone said, “I don’t think anyone has cared about it before.
“I think it’s a big problem, but it has been around for so long [and] nobody did anything. Why didn’t someone do something two or three years ago?
“They are too busy winning races or finding sponsors or something. ”
In a recent article for The Times, Hamilton alluded to an incident that happened in Spain in 2008, when he was taunted by fans in black.
Ecclestone was criticized for not taking the situation seriously, although he later said that he had spoken to Hamilton’s father Anthony and that “everything [was] good. ”
“I’m surprised it concerns him,” said Ecclestone, reflecting on the incident, adding that he had never spoken to Hamilton himself, who was driving for McLaren at the time.
“I’m really upset if he took it seriously. I never thought he was doing it. I didn’t think it affected him.
“I don’t know why people did it anyway. Was it against him personally or what they thought? “
THE RIBBS NEARBY
As owner of the Brabham racing team, Ecclestone invited Willie T. Ribbs to test drive in Portugal in 1986, an audition for a place on the grid that could have seen the American become the first black driver in F1.
In a recent interview with Davies, CNN Sport’s anchor Ribbs, who later participated in IndyCar and NASCAR, spoke highly of Ecclestone.
“I don’t even know if Formula 1 would exist now without Bernie Ecclestone,” said Ribbs.
“He wanted me in the car. He wanted me in Formula 1 […] Its sponsors at the time were Italian. They wanted Italian pilots and I totally respect him. I have no problem with that.
“My goal was to be in Formula One, but Bernie Ecclestone made a statement because Bernie Ecclestone placed the first colored man, the first Black, in a Formula 1 car.”
It is with the desire to increase diversity within the sport that the new F1 season begins.
The first race at the start of the delayed season will take place in Austria on July 5, where Hamilton begins his quest for a seventh title of world champion which would enable him to reach Michael Schumacher’s record level.