“When a car goes off the circuit and has an accident, I can't think for one moment that any driver would do that deliberately,” he opined. “In my whole career, I've never heard of that, so it would be a new one on me and if it is true or alleged to be true then I think it is very sad. Those things, if they do happen then they shouldn't happen.
“Everybody says that the time in which they raced was the best time, and we had challenges, but in the eighties and nineties there weren't the kind of things going on that are going on now,” he added, speaking to BBC Sport
. “I just feel 'okay, if they're going on, they should be kept behind closed doors,' because some of it hurts the sport. I just find it extraordinary. Renault, Singapore – whether it's true or not, there's a stigma behind it all, isn't there.
“All the political things that are happening too... All the teams should get together and agree something sensible going forward. Fill the grid – we want 26 Formula 1 cars on the grid. If there are 26 places on the grid, let's have a full grid. How many years has it been? How many years do we have to go back since we had a full grid of Formula 1 cars? I'm with the fans here, I agree with them – let's go racing. Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport; let's keep it that way.”
One driver who was right at the pinnacle of F1 in 2008 but slipped back into near-ignominy in early 2009 is reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton. McLaren-Mercedes' talisman driver has endured a torrid campaign during which an uncompetitive car and an opening race 'cheating' row have at times made him question whether he should even be there at all, but the Stevenage-born ace is adamant that all the trials and tribulations have only served to strengthen him [see separate story – click here
] – and Mansell suggests he won't be down for long.
“I think in the beginning, badly,” he responded, when asked how he believed Hamilton has handled himself this year. “I think everybody can see that, but I think he's regained some ground. He's young, he'll regain his composure and I think it will be a year whereby he's gained a lot of experience.
“You have to learn by experiences, don't you, and if all you've ever done is just win championship after championship and you've never had a tough time, when the tough times come you don't know how to deal with them. I think now you'll see that he'll grow in stature, and hopefully if he gets the car underneath him, he'll win another world championship soon.”
TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE