The world of Formula 1 mourned arguably its most famous non-driver when legendary commentator Murray Walker passed away in March 2021.
His legacy is undeniable, having voiced over many of Formula 1’s defining moments with his trademark enthusiasm and knowledge, and even long after he retired, he remained one of the most popular figures in the sport when he attended races, before his death aged 97.
An award is named in his honour by Motorsport UK in recognition of outstanding broadcasting for the year, with the first edition of which fittingly won by his former colleague and the man who has arguably taken on his ‘Voice of F1’ mantle in Martin Brundle.
Walker’s commentary career was also full of what affectionately became known as “Murrayisms”, when his enthusiasm would sometimes reach such heights that his words would jumble somewhat, leading to some of his more memorable one-liners – none of which were a slight against him, of course, just a consequence of getting lost in the heat of the moment.
His relationship with long-time co-commentator and 1976 World Champion, James Hunt, was often a topic of conversation too, with their chalk-and-cheese personalities contrasting in the commentary box, and the two even being forced to share a microphone between them, as they often found themselves talking over one another.
When discussing René Arnoux at Monaco in 1989, after a lengthy explanation from Walker as to why Arnoux said he was struggling with his naturally aspirated Ligier, explaining his preference for turbo cars, Hunt took the mic abruptly and said on live television: “Well, all I can say to that is bull****.”
“So, anyway…” came Walker’s immediate response. That feels like a neat summary of their dynamic.
But if you are unfamiliar with Walker’s work, or want to relive some of his best commentary moments, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s go (go, go).
First, just 15 of our favourite Murrayisms:
“There’s nothing wrong with the car, except it’s on fire.”
“Three lights! Four lights! Five… laps!”
“Do my eyes deceive me or is Senna’s car sounding a bit rough?”
“Andrea de Cesaris, the man who has won more grands prix than anyone else without actually winning one…”
“And now excuse me while I interrupt myself!”
“If is a very long word in Formula 1. In fact, ‘if’ is F1 spelled backwards.”
“I imagine the conditions in those cars are totally unimaginable.”
“Even in five years’ time, he will still be four years younger than Damon Hill.”
“There are seven winners of the Monaco Grand Prix on the starting line today, and four of them are Michael Schumacher.”
“The lead car is unique, except for the one behind it which is identical.”
“The young Ralf Schumacher has been upstaged by teenager Jenson Button, who is 20…”
“You might not think that’s cricket, and it’s not, it’s motor racing.”
“That’s history. I say history because it happened in the past.”
“Nigel Mansell is in third position! He’s gone up from seventh to sixth to fourth to fifth and now to third.”
“Unless I’m very much mistaken – and I am very much mistaken!”
While we all smile at the Murrayisms which made Walker the human, and fan, behind the microphone, let us not forget the world-class broadcaster he also was.
His voice is what most of the English-speaking world will have heard narrating over the top of some of the most important moments in the history of Formula 1, so we’ve picked out a further five moments which stand out in the Formula 1 broadcasting pantheon from the voice of the sport.
Five iconic pieces of Murray Walker commentary
Damon Hill becomes World Champion (1996)
“He fought from second on the grid, he passed Jacques Villeneuve, he took the lead, he stayed there. And Damon Hill exits the chicane and wins the Japanese Grand Prix – and I’ve got to stop, because I’ve got a lump in my throat.”
‘Our Nige’ sees his title aspirations go up in smoke as his tyre fails (1986)
“And look at that! And colossally, that’s Mansell! That is Nigel Mansell, and the car absolutely shattered. He’s fighting for control but you can see what’s happened, Mansell is out of the race. Now, this could change, it will change the World Championship!”
The title decided in controversy at Suzuka (1989)
“This is the opportunity that Senna was looking for, and he’s going through – OUT! Oh my goodness, this is fantastic! They meet, this is what we were fearing might happen during the race, and that means to say that Prost has won the World Championship. Alain Prost, World Champion of 1989!”
Senna gets his own back on Prost at the start a year later (1990)
“Alain Prost has taken the advantage, Senna is trying to go through on the inside… [collision occurs] and it’s happened immediately! This is amazing! Senna goes off at the first corner, but what has happened to Prost? He has gone off too! Well, that is amazing, but I fear, absolutely predictable.”
Schumi achieves his Ferrari title dream (2000)
“And a buh-ruh-rilliant race for Michael Schumacher, who exits the chicane for the 53rd and last time to win the 2000 Japanese Grand Prix and the World Championship for the third time, to give Ferrari and Italy their dream – and look, he knows it. He is absolutely beside himself with joy, his ultimate dream has been succeeded. He can now let the emotion flood!”
Of course, we’re only scratching the surface of Murray Walker memories here, so if you have any other favourite moments from the broadcasting icon in Formula 1, let us know in the comments below.