|© AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
Staging a Formula 1 race is the quick way for a country with a "tainted brand" to improve its image, according to a leading executive of the motorsport series.
F1 has been criticised by rights groups for persisting with the Bahrain Grand Prix amid allegations of crackdowns and widespread arrests of government opponents.
Bahrain's premier international event was cancelled in 2011 as the Arab Spring uprising engulfed the Gulf kingdom.
The last two races have gone ahead amid protests despite concerns that the event provides a public relations boost for the island's Sunni-led government.
F1 board member Martin Sorrell said on Thursday that "running a sporting event does have political implications."
"It's ill-advised to believe that events will not have political ramifications," Sorrell said on the sidelines of the Leaders in Football conference in London. "When you think about sporting events, you have to think about it in a social, political and economic context.
"Sporting events, the reason people invest in them, is for political, social and economic reasons. So it's not unnatural that they have political, social and economic ramifications."
Continuing in that vein, when pressed on the Bahrain race, Sorrell responded: "It doesn't make it easy, but you have to look at it in the context of all those factors."
More than 65 people have died in the unrest in Bahrain since 2011, but Shiite opposition leaders and rights groups place the toll closer to 100.
While addressing conference delegates, Sorrell, the chief executive of advertising giant WPP, highlighted the advantages for troubled nations to attract major sporting events.
"If you were running a country and it had an unknown brand or a tainted brand, what would you do? How could you in a relatively short period of time change the image around that city, the state or the continent?" Sorrell asked.
"The answer is, when you think about it at the minute, Olympics, World Cup, Formula 1... these being the sort of opportunities that have a major global impact in a very short period of time, and can change the way people perceive a region."
Sorrell would not comment on the future of F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, with a German court still to decide on whether he should be tried on bribery charges.
The Munich state court said last month it was waiting for additional responses from Ecclestone's lawyers over the charge relating to a $44 million payment to a German banker.
But Sorrell said the uncertainty over Ecclestone's legal fight could be hampering the motorsport franchise's long-mooted flotation plans.
"With the German judge having to decide (still), I think that's probably fair it probably does make (the initial public offering) harder to do," said Sorrell, a non-executive director of F1.