Nigel Mansell has bucked the general trend amongst British observers by devaluing Lewis Hamilton's Formula 1 title - in claiming that he had to fight harder to clinch the crown 17 years ago.

The 1992 F1 World Champion - who came close to lifting the laurels on a number of previous occasions, only to either slip up or be robbed as glory was almost in sight - competed against as many as 31 other drivers en route to the honours with Williams, whereas Hamilton never had any more than 21 rivals last year as he avenged his agonising defeat of 2007 by narrowly seeing off the challenge of Ferrari's Felipe Massa to prevail by a single point following the dramatic season finale in Brazil.

That, Mansell contends, makes his title worth more than that of his countryman, Britain's sporting icon of the moment. He also insisted that for the top flight to retain its allure and secure its long-term future, fuller grids are the only way to go.

"No disrespect to Lewis," the 55-year-old told British newspaper The Sun, "but what's the point of a championship where you only have 18 or 20 cars running?

"When I won the title, I beat 25 other cars. That makes Lewis' title 20 per cent less credible than mine.

"I hope F1 survives, as the sport can't afford to lose any more teams. We need more competitive teams on the grid."

Whilst Hamilton had to deal with the threats of Massa, defending world champion Kimi Raikkonen, emerging BMW-Sauber ace Robert Kubica, former team-mate Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Toro Rosso sensation Sebastian Vettel and his current McLaren-Mercedes partner Heikki Kovalainen - all of whom triumphed over the course of the campaign - the only other drivers to stand atop the podium during Mansell's cruise to the crown were the sister Williams of Riccardo Patrese, the late, great Ayrton Senna in the McLaren-Honda and rising star Michael Schumacher at Benetton.

Further down the grid, many of the drivers and teams the Birmingham-born hero beat were scarcely of any great calibre, from March to Fondmetal, BMS, Venturi, Larrousse and Andrea Moda, with Brabham and Lotus outfits that were sadly on their last legs.

What's more, Mansell's 'active suspension' Williams FW14B enjoyed a significant advantage over any of the opposition - even the legendary Senna was victorious on only three occasions to the Englishman's nine - whilst Hamilton's McLaren last year was arguably slightly inferior to the Ferrari he just pipped to the post.

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