Six-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, the first and only Black driver in F1, recently created the Hamilton Commission to increase diversity across motorsport. Former F1 executive Bernie Ecclestone praised Hamilton for speaking out for diversity, but he said that changing attitudes toward race won't "come easily." The reason he listed is that he believes "Black people are more racist than White people."
"I don't think it's going to do anything bad or good for Formula One," Ecclestone said to CNN. "It'll just make people think which is more important. I think that's the same for everybody. People ought to think a little bit and think: 'Well, what the hell. Somebody's not the same as White people and Black people should think the same about White people.' In lots of cases, Black people are more racist than what White people are."
CNN asked Ecclestone for examples to prove his point. He reportedly did not provide anything and simply said that he had "noticed it" over the years. The former F1 executive also said that he thinks tearing down statues is stupid and that they should become teaching points for children in school.
"I think they need to start being taught at school," Ecclestone said. "So they grow up not having to think about these things. I think it's completely stupid taking all these statues down. They should've left them there. Take the kids from school to look and say why they're there and what the people did and how wrong it was what they did."
Ecclestone further expanded on his opinion and said that he doesn't believe anyone "has bothered" to do anything about diversity in F1 before. He said that this has long been an issue, but nobody did anything. The 89-year-old billionaire said that they were "too busy" trying to win races or find sponsors.
F1 released a statement about Ecclestone and said that the organization completely disagrees with his comments and that he has no more attachments after his title of Chairman Emeritus expired. This followed critical comments about the former executive, but one former driver came to his defense. Willie T. Ribbs, who became the first African American man to test an F1 car, talked about the opportunity Ecclestone gave him.
"I don't even know if Formula One would exist now if it wasn't for Bernie Ecclestone," Ribbs said. "He wanted me in the car. He wanted me in Formula One [...] His sponsors at the time were Italian. They wanted Italian drivers, and I totally respect him. I have no issues with that. My goal was to be in Formula One, but Bernie Ecclestone made a statement because Bernie Ecclestone put the first man of color, first Black man, in a Formula 1 car."