Murray Walker, the Formula 1 commentary legend, dies aged 97
Murray Walker, the iconic Voice of F1, has died aged 97; Martin Brundle describes Walker as a "national treasure, communication genius, Formula One legend", while Lewis Hamilton says he was the "iconic voice of our sport and a great man"
Last Updated: 14/03/21 7:22am
Murray Walker, the legendary Formula 1 commentator, has passed away aged 97.
Widely regarded as the Voice of F1 in a motorsport commentary career that spanned more than 50 years until 2001, Walker was a household name both in Britain and around the world.
"It's with great sadness we share the news of the passing of BRDC Associate Member Murray Walker OBE," said the British Racing Drivers' Club in a statement.
"A friend, a true motorsport legend, the nations favourite commentator and a contagious smile. We thank Murray for all he has done for our community. RIP our friend."
Rest in Peace Murray Walker. Wonderful man in every respect. National treasure, communication genius, Formula One legend.— Martin Brundle 💙 (@MBrundleF1) March 13, 2021
Martin Brundle began his commentary career next to Walker at ITV in 1997 and said: "Rest in Peace Murray Walker.
"Wonderful man in every respect. National treasure, communication genius, Formula One legend."
- Murray Walker: Remembering the Voice of Formula 1
- 'Murray was Mr Formula 1' - Tributes to an icon and legend
Walker, who commented on his first grand prix on the radio in 1949, was known for his high-octane commentary style and was as identifiable with the sport as the drivers.
"He was a wonderful character, always so full of life, full of fun and positive enthusiasm. We all loved him," said Brundle, who commentated alongside Walker for five seasons after finishing his long career as an F1 driver.
"In a high level sport, where you are universally loved and respected and regarded, I would think is quite unusual because that's the sort of personality he was, he was so good at what he did. He had a passion for Formula 1 that is almost unsurpassed. The whole of our sport will be hugely saddened by this news."
David Croft, Brundle's fellow Sky Sports F1 commentator, tweeted: "Rest in Peace Murray Walker, a gentleman and a legend in every sense of the word.
"It was an honour to know you, a delight to spend time in your company and inspiring to listen and learn from you. THE voice of Formula 1 and always will be. Thankyou."
Rest in Peace Murray Walker, a gentleman and a legend in every sense of the word. It was an honour to know you, a delight to spend time in your company and inspiring to listen and learn from you. THE voice of Formula 1 and always will be. Thankyou xx— David Croft (@CroftyF1) March 13, 2021
In a statement, Formula 1 said: "We are immensely sad to hear that Murray Walker has passed away. His passion and love of the sport inspired millions of fans around the world.
"He will forever be a part of our history, and will be dearly missed."
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton tweeted:
So sad to hear of Murray’s passing. I remember growing up hearing your voice over the races. You made the sport so much more exciting and captivating. The iconic voice of our sport and a great man, thank you for all you did, you will never be forgotten. Rest in peace🙏🏾— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) March 13, 2021
Silverstone, meanwhile, said Walker "brought the sport and some of its greatest moments to life in a way that ensured they remained seared in our memories for ever".
Murray Walker: 1923-2021
Born Graeme Murray Walker in October 1923, Murray Walker experienced a long and varied career even before becoming a full-time commentator.
Having been fast approaching his 16th birthday at the outbreak of World War Two, the young Murray volunteered to join the forces and, after completing his officer training at Sandhurst, joined a tank regiment in the Royal Scots Greys to serve his country.
Following the end of war, he rejoined Dunlop, where he had completed a business scholarship some years earlier, to begin what would prove a hugely successful career in advertising - which lasted all the way up to 1982.
But the lure of motorsport would ultimately prove too strong and would eventually lead to him down the path towards becoming a household name around the English-speaking world.
In truth, it should have been little surprise considering his father, Graham, was a despatch rider during the First World War and went on to both race in, and ultimately commentate on, bike racing.
Although he initially tried to carve out his own racing career on two wheels, Murray Walker the commentator - or in this case the PA announcer - was first heard at a hill climb event in 1948. Asked to stand in for the public address announcer, Murray unsurprisingly shone and a year later was making his sports broadcasting debut for real at Silverstone for the British GP on BBC Radio - a year before the F1 World Championship was formed.
Like millions of F1 fans, all of us at McLaren are deeply saddened by the news that Murray Walker has passed away.— McLaren (@McLarenF1) March 13, 2021
He brought our sport to generations by sharing his passion and knowledge with humour and humility. Our thoughts are with all who had the fortune to know him. pic.twitter.com/0NBS1KWxpE
He continued to combine his dual identity - advertising executive by weekday and passionate motor racing enthusiast and commentator at the weekend - over the following few decades with commentaries across the spectrum of motorsport from F1 to TT racing before the role that would ultimately come to define him came about in the late 1970s as the BBC decided to vastly expand its TV coverage of the top level of motorsport.
Choosing Murray to front its new Grand Prix programme was a masterstroke and over the next quarter of a century his unique commentary style became part of the fabric of the sport.
Our thoughts go out to his family and friends at this difficult time. We will miss you Murray and we can only sign off by drawing on one of his most legendary pieces of commentary...— Williams Racing (@WilliamsRacing) March 13, 2021
And we've got to stop. Because we've got a lump in our throat 😢 pic.twitter.com/12x1zXjrOB
As did, famously, what affectionately became known over the years as his collection of 'Murrayisms' - the affectionate mistakes or slips of the tongue that added, rather than detracted, to the viewing experience.
Indeed his commentaries always came from the heart, no more so than when friend Damon Hill took the chequered flag at Suzuka in 1996 to emulate his father in winning the world championship and Murray quietly informed millions that "I've got to stop because I've got a lump in my throat".
His two most famous and long-running commentary partnerships would prove similarly good value for viewers. Although initially apprehensive about the appearance of the flamboyant James Hunt alongside him in the commentary box, the pair struck up a famous double act for over a decade prior to the 1976 world champion's untimely death in 1993.
Murray's relationship with Martin Brundle proved equally popular after the UK's F1 TV rights, and the 'Voice' himself, transferred to ITV at the start of the 1997 season to begin an unexpected new era in his incredible broadcasting career.
More than 50 years after his commentary debut at Silverstone, Murray was still captivating F1 audiences as the new century dawned. But aware that he wanted to retire while still at the top of his game, at the end of the 2001 season and just two years shy of his 80th birthday, he hung up his microphone for the last time after commentating on that year's US Grand Prix.
Today we say farewell to one of the greats of our sport, Murray was the voice of F1 for so many years, he put his heart and soul into commentating. The legend will always live on in our memories but today in Murray’s words “I’ve got to stop because I have a lump in my throat” pic.twitter.com/Z10RcslkGk— Jenson Button (@JensonButton) March 13, 2021
He later even became a Honda F1 ambassador and was a popular attendee of F1 events even after passing the age of 90, with his famous enthusiasm for the sport undimmed.
As his successors in the commentary box ever since have remarked, it's a pointless task trying to emulate Murray Walker.
He was a true one-off.