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F1 board member Martin Sorrell says races help to transform image of 'tainted' countries

  • 04bf45e82ab0ca223f0f6a706700ef15.jpg

    Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany speaks during an interview at the Suzuka circuit, ahead of Sunday's Japanese Formula One Grand Prix, in Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi) (The Associated Press)

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    McLaren driver Jenson Button of Britain, left, and his girlfriend Jessica Michibata walk down the F1 paddock at the Suzuka circuit, ahead of Sunday's Japanese Formula One Grand Prix, in Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi) (The Associated Press)

A leading Formula One executive says countries with a "tainted brand" can try to improve their image quickly by staging a race.

The leading motorsport series has been criticized by rights groups for persisting with the Bahrain Grand Prix amid allegations of crackdowns and widespread arrests of government opponents in the Gulf nation.

F1 board member Martin Sorrell says "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? The answer is, when you think about it at the minute, Olympics, World Cup, Formula One."

Sorrell, chief executive of advertising giant WPP, told a London conference that events such as F1 races have a "major global impact in a very short period of time, and can change the way people perceive a region."