Human rights call leaves Bernie baffled as F1 drives into Baku backlash

Bernie Ecclestone insists Formula One has a “100 per cent” clear conscience as the sport came under fire upon its arrival in Azerbaijan ahead of the oil-rich state’s first race. The F1 supremo said he was treating the issue seriously after human rights groups called for the sport to take a stance against president Ilham Aliyev’s hardline regime. But he told a news conference on Thursday: “The minute people tell me what human rights are then you can have a look at them and see how and when and where it applies. Do any of you know what human rights are?” When it was put to the 86-year-old that some journalists had been prosecuted for speaking out against the regime, he replied: “So they should. It depends what they say. You say they write negative things. It depends what they write.”

I tell you what we ought to do. As far as we are concerned, not have any races where there is corruption in the country. Can you tell me where we are going to be racing?

Bernie Ecclestone

Human rights campaigners have accused Mr Aliyev’s regime of wrongful imprisonment of journalists and bloggers, freezing financial public resources and restrictive legislation. And on Wednesday, Amnesty International said: “Formula One should use its influence and publicly call on the Azerbaijan authorities to end their crackdown on human rights.” Baku will stage the inaugural race against the picturesque backdrop of the old city walls - atnearly four miles in length, it is the second longest course on the calendar. Mr Ecclestone said: “We just left the greatest place in the world, North America. Compared to here it’s a bit of a s***-hole, isn’t it really?”

There are a lot of people starving in the world and you would think they have got something to complain about

Mr Ecclestone on human rights campaigners