BERNIE ECCLESTON has shockingly defended long-term friend Nelson Piquet after the Brazilian F1 icon used a vile racial slur to describe Lewis Hamilton.
Former F1 owner Eccleston, 91, insisted Piquet "would never go out of his way to say something bad".
Piquet, 69, used the N-word to describe Hamilton in an interview that was conducted last year but surfaced earlier this week.
The three-time F1 world champion issued a grovelling apology after Hamilton called for "action", with Piquet now facing a lifetime ban from the sport.
Eccleston though leapt to the defence of his good friend Piquet during a bizarre interview with Good Morning Britain.
He said: "I've known Nelson for an awful long time. I was with him a couple of weeks ago. It's not the sort of thing Nelson would say meaning something bad.
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"He probably thinks lots of things he says which might upset us or might feel a little bit offensive…. to him it's nothing. It's just part of conversation.
"Nelson would never go out of his way to say anything bad, certainly.
"I think what probably happened, knowing Nelson as I know him, as his daughter is the girlfriend of Max Verstappen, probably after seeing the accident, he probably exploded and carried that forward."
Eccleston also said he was "surprised" Hamilton hadn't "brushed aside" Piquet's shocking comments.
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When asked about the disgusting term, Eccleston said: "Well it's probably not appropriate with us. But probably it isn't something terrible that happens if you said that in Brazil.
"People say things… if people happen to be a little bit overweight, or undersized like me, I'm quite sure a lot of people have made remarks about that. If I'd have heard it, I'd have been able to deal with it myself without too much trouble.
"I’m surprised Lewis hasn’t just brushed it aside. Or, better than that, replied. But he’s now come out and Nelson has apologised."
Like Piquet, Ecclestone's wife Fabiana, 45, is Brazilian and also vice-president of the FIA for the South America region.
Ex-F1 chief Eccleston has been widely condemned on social media following his interview this morning, in which he also claimed he'd "take a bullet" for Vladimir Putin.
One critic wrote on Twitter: "Bernie Ecclestone on #GMB trying to justify Nelson Piquet's racist comments. This weasel."
Another wrote: "Bernie Ecclestone trying to justify Nelson Piquet's racism. Appalling and disgusting."
A third said: "Bernie Ecclestone defending the racist comments made by Nelson Piquet AND defending Putin…oh wow. Pull the plug on this interview."
Eccleston brazenly defended his old friend Putin just days after Russian forces murdered at least 18 people with a missile strike on a packed shopping centre in Ukraine.
He insisted the Russian tyrant is a "first class person" and added the brutal deaths of innocent Ukrainians were not "intentional".
In the incredible interview Eccleston also dismissed Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky as a "comedian".
GMB presenters Kate Garraway and Ben Shephard were stunned into silence after hearing Ecclestone's controversial comments.
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F1 released a statement shortly after Eccleston's appearance on the show from a sunny backdrop in Ibiza.
It said: "The comments made by Bernie Ecclestone are his personal views and are in very stark contrast to position of the modern values of our sport."
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