Formula 1

Murray Walker, Beloved Commentator of F1, Has Died

No matter how boring F1 got in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and it did get boring there for a while, you could count on Murray Walker to keep listeners glued to their radios. Or maybe we should say, to keep their eyes glued to their radios. Because despite his knowledge and love of F1, it was as often as not Walker’s occasional mispeakings that endeared him to fans.

Walker was 97.

Walker had an encyclopedic knowledge of motorsport, honed over 52 years as a broadcaster. After seving as a tank commander in WWII, he began doing race coverage alongside his father, Graham Walker, a motorcycle racer-turned-broadcaster. He covered numerous motorsports in his early years, from the Isle of Man TT motorcycle race, to hill climbs and F1. His first F1 broadcast was at the 1949 British Grand Prix, and he began covering the sport full-time for the BBC in 1978 until his retirement from the booth in 2001.

“With a mic in his hand he was an energetic, voluble man on a mission, and his audience loved him for it because it was real,” read a quote in an official tweet from Formula 1.

Over the years Walker worked with racers-turned-broadcasters
Damon Hill and James Hunt, who found him as endearing and amusing as millions of fans.

“He was very good at making mistakes,” Jackie Stewart told BBC Radio 5 Live. “He made wonderful mistakes. He so much enjoyed the realisation of his error, he was such a character. A mistake didn’t mean anything wrong for Murray. It was something else to make a joke of.”

Walker at work in the broadcast booth during the Japanese Grand Prix in 2001.

Darren Heath PhotographerGetty Images

Here then, we honor this beloved F1 figure with some of his best “Murrayisms,” those on-air slip-ups where his enthusiasm got ahead of his brain. Godspeed Murray Walker, and may your car arrive at the Pearly Gates facing forward, unless it’s backward, in which case do drive it in in reverse:

  • That’s history. I say history because it happened in the past.
  • The lead car is unique, except for the one behind it which is identical.
  • There are seven winners of the Monaco Grand Prix on the starting line today, and four of them are Michael Schumacher.
  • There’s nothing wrong with the car except that it’s on fire.
  • I don’t make mistakes. I make prophecies which immediately turn out to be wrong.
  • You can cut the tension with a cricket stump.
  • I should imagine that the conditions in the cockpit are totally unimaginable.
  • And now, excuse me while I interrupt myself.
  • This circuit is interesting because it has inclines and declines. Not just up, but down as well.
  • You might not think that’s cricket, and it’s not, it’s motor racing.
  • I can’t believe what’s happening visually, in front of my eyes.
  • With half the race gone, there is half the race still to go.
  • Eight minutes past the hour here in Belgium – and presumably eight minutes past the hour everywhere in the world.
  • And that just shows you how important the car is in Formula One Racing.
  • He can’t decide whether to leave his visor half open or half closed.
  • Well, now we have exactly the same situation as at the beginning of the race, only exactly opposite.
  • A battle is developing between them’ I say developing, because it’s not yet on.
  • I’ve no idea what Eddie Irvine’s orders are, but he’s following them superlatively well.
  • That’s history. I say history because it happened in the past.
  • Schumacher wouldn’t have let him past voluntarily. Of course he did it voluntarily, but he had to do it.
  • Do my eyes deceive me or is Senna’s car sounding a bit rough?
  • And the first five places are filled with five different cars
  • And this is the third-placed car about to lap the second-placed car
  • Two laps to go, then the action will begin. Unless this is the action, which it is
  • It’s a sad ending, albeit a happy one, here at Montreal for today’s Grand Prix
  • Andrea de Cesaris, the man who has won more Grands Prix than anyone else without actually winning one
  • Unless I’m very much mistaken… I am very much mistaken!
  • The young Ralf Schumacher has been upstaged by teenager Jenson Button, who is 20
  • It would have been Senna’s third win in a row if he’d won the two before

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