In an interview with The Times on Friday, the outspoken Ecclestone said, “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.”
Since the Times interview, critics have been calling for Ecclestone’s resignation, saying he is unfit to lead the global sporting organisation. Ronald Lauder, leader of the World Jewish Congress, has encouraged F1 drivers, teams and host countries to end their relationship with Ecclestone.
However, in an interview with German daily Bild published Monday, Ecclestone, who owns the commercial rights to F1, attempted to clarify his statements.
“This is all a massive misunderstanding,” the 78-year-old said. “I was not using Hitler as a positive example of leadership, but only pointing to the fact that before his dreadful crimes against humanity, he successfully governed through the unemployment and economic crisis [in the 1930s].”
Germany’s top Jewish group called for teams to boycott the Sunday’s German grand prix in protest at his comments.
“No team should work with him any more – a boycott would be more than appropriate,” said Dieter Graumann, the deputy head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, in an interview with business daily Handelsblatt.
This isn’t the first time F1 leaders have made Nazi gaffes. Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) president Max Mosley was caught on video last year having a Nazi-themed orgy with prostitutes dressed as Nazi and concentration camp prisoners in an apartment turned sex-dungeon. As chief of the FIA, Mosley is responsible for overseeing all international motorsports, including F1. Mosley’s father, Oswald, was the leader British Union of Fascists.