“What he’s doing is something he believed was the right thing,” Ecclestone said of the war.
“Unfortunately it’s like a lot of business people, certainly like me, that we make mistakes from time to time and when you make a mistake you have to do your best to get out of it.”
Ecclestone, who was replaced as F1 chief executive in 2017 after nearly four decades in charge, also criticized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s handling of the invasion.
“The other person in Ukraine…his profession, I understand, he was an actor – and I think it looks like he wants to continue that profession,” he said.
“I think if he had thought about it, he certainly would have made a pretty big effort to talk to Putin, who is a sensible person, and listen to him and probably could have done something about it.”
Asked that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people, Ecclestone replied: “It was not intentional”.
And when asked if Zelensky could have done more to stop the war, Ecclestone replied: “Absolutely.”
In a statement sent to CNN, Formula 1 said: “Bernie Ecclestone’s comments are his personal views and stand in stark contrast to our sport’s modern values position.”
At press time, the FIA, the motorsport governing body, had yet to respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Ecclestone backed Putin on gay rights
Following the comments, F1 released a statement on its website saying it “completely disagrees” with Ecclestone.
Ecclestone and Putin have long been allies. Their relationship was key to establishing the Russian Grand Prix, which debuted at Sochi in 2014.
And in an interview broadcast on February 25 this year, just a day after Russia invaded Ukraine, Ecclestone described Putin as “honourable”.
Ecclestone on Piquet’s racial slurs
Three-time world champion Piquet – who won two of his three world titles while driving for the team Ecclestone owned, Brabham – used a Brazilian Portuguese racial slur to describe seven-time champion Hamilton in a collision at high speed involving Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the British Grand Prix last year.
On Wednesday, Piquet addressed his comments, which were made in November last year but only recently came to light when the interview was published on Monday.
Piquet said the racial slur he used had no racist intent, saying he strongly condemned ‘any suggestion that the word was used by me for the purpose of demeaning a driver because of his color of skin”.
Ecclestone said he was “surprised that Lewis didn’t just brush it off, or better than that, respond.”
He added: “It’s probably not appropriate with us, but it’s probably not something terrible that happens if you say that in Brazil.
“But people say things, and people talk about people if they’re a little overweight or a little too short like me. I’m sure people have commented on that. If I had heard , I’ve been able to take care of it myself without too much trouble.”
Formula 1, Hamilton’s Mercedes team and the FIA on Tuesday condemned Piquet for using the racial slur.
Hamilton, who has the most race wins in F1 history, said “now is the time to act” against racism and responded to Piquet’s comments in a series of Twitter posts, writing : “Vamos focar em mudar a mentalidade” — Portuguese for “Let’s focus on changing mentality.”
George Ramsay and Amanda Davies contributed to this report.