Legendary Formula 1 commentator Murray Walker has died at the age of 97. We're remembering him with a look back at the time we joined him in his lounge to watch a race live, and enjoy his impassioned narration. The following feature is from December 2017.
We’re into the last week of October and Lewis Hamilton has just won the US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas.
With three races to go, it’s already obvious that the main beneficiaries of this year’s Formula 1 season will be Hamilton and Mercedes-Benz. In the Autocar office, we’re discussing ways of spicing up the remaining races – especially Abu Dhabi, the last.
Some of us, of course, are so keen on F1 that we’d be happy to watch paint dry on the side of an F1 car. But some of us aren’t. “The only way to enjoy the last race,” offers someone, “would be to watch it with someone you can be certain will enjoy it. Someone like Murray Walker...”
It is a killer idea. The veteran broadcaster may have stepped away from full-time TV commentary well over a decade ago but, even at 94, he’s still only semi-retired (“I just do the things that appeal to me”) and remains a much-loved figure in F1. For many, indeed, the name ‘Murray’ stands for the F1 enthusiast-in-chief of the English-speaking world.
I contact Walker (who in meetings past has helpfully outed himself as an Autocar reader) and pretty soon we’ve made an arrangement whereby photographer Stan Papior and I will present ourselves at his house, surrounded by woodland on the edge of the New Forest, at noon on race day, in nice time for the Channel 4 race build-up to begin.
Murray sends us crystal-clear instructions that sound like they have come from a 30-year-old. Our exchanges remind me about one of his instinctive skills: using information to put you at ease. “Contrary to public belief, I don’t get all passionate and throw things at the TV during the race,” he advises. “I just sit quietly, hopefully taking it in. But there’s no reason why we can’t talk during ‘our’ race…”