Former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has apologised for defending Vladimir Putin ©Getty Images

The former chief executive of the Formula One (F1) Group, Bernie Ecclestone, has apologised for defending Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview when he said he would "take a bullet" for him.

Speaking on ITV's Good Morning Britain, Ecclestone said Putin was a "first-class person" and defended his long-time friend's invasion of Ukraine, stating he was "doing something he believes is the right thing".

The 91-year-old, who was replaced as F1 boss in 2017 when Liberty Media Group bought him out, has now admitted his comments were inappropriate.

"Probably good for me to get some things off my chest. Things that have been bothering me about what I've said, and about what people think [about] what I've said," remarked Ecclestone when speaking to Sky Sports.

"Often people come out and say things, or do things, without really too much thinking. 

"Probably I did the same and I can understand people thinking I'm defending what he's done in Ukraine, which I don't. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin is a long-time friend of Bernie Ecclestone ©Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin is a long-time friend of Bernie Ecclestone ©Getty Images

"I was brought up during the war [World War Two], the last war, so I know what it's like, and I feel sorry for the people in Ukraine having to suffer for something they haven't done.

"They've done nothing wrong, they didn't start anything, they've done nothing, they want to get on with their lives. 

"They want their kids to go to school, they want to try to go to work and earn a living to keep the family going. 

"So they don't deserve to have to suffer.

"It's not good for anybody, I can't see anyone getting anything out of this, and I think they should get together and get an agreement and I'm sorry if it's anything I've said that has upset anybody because it certainly wasn't intended."

Ecclestone has made several controversial comments in the past, one of these coming in an interview with The Times, where he suggested infamous dictator Adolf Hitler could have been "persuaded" to commit atrocities during the Holocaust and Nazi Germany era, adding that he was "able to get things done".

He recently backed three-time world champion Nelson Piquet of Brazil, who was found to have called British seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton a racial slur.