Mario Andretti says F1 is "more of a men's sport"

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has stirred up controversy in the racing world again.

But this time, he has support from an F1 legend.

The 85-year-old Briton is the chief executive of the Formula One Group, and has had a lot of say in the direction in which the sport has headed over its last 40 years.

However, it seems that Ecclestone has been stirring up more and more controversy these days. At an advertising conference earlier this week, he stated that Russian president Vladimir Putin “should be running Europe,” that Adolf Hitler was a man “who was able to get things done,” expressed support for Donald Trump and then added that he didn’t “know whether a woman would physically be able to drive an F1 car quickly, and they wouldn’t be taken seriously.”

Often Ecclestone has found himself standing on his own on some of his more controversial viewpoints, but this time the 1978 Formula One World Champion Mario Andretti is there to back him up - at least on the point about female racers.

“Bernie doesn’t mince words,” explained the 76-year-old to TMZ. “He says what he thinks. You could be more delicate about it, but Formula One has been in existence for what, 66 years, and we've only seen five women try and compete and none have really been successful.

“The bottom line is you can make assertions until the cows come home. Saying women can do it. Bottom line, they have to prove it. You can’t just come out of the woodwork and say ‘I want to be a F1 driver.’ You need to earn your way there.

“Will it happen one day? It’s impossible to predict, but I’d say probably yes. At the same time, someone else might say, if it was going to happen, why hasn’t it happened in 66 years?

“I think it’s clearly more of a men’s sport. Could there be some women who are competitive? Like with tennis … could Serena Williams compete with men? I think yes, but could she win a major, I don’t know.

“If women take issue because of the statements Bernie made, then go out and prove him wrong. So far no woman has even come close.”

To date, Lella Lombardi is the only female driver to have scored points in Formula One with a sixth-place finish at the 1975 Spanish GP.

Formula One heads to Sochi next week for the Russian GP.

Click HERE for more F1 news and features