“Murray Walker: Incredible!” by Maurice Hamilton reviewed


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I don’t know about you, but my Covid PTSD is starting to set in. Playgrounds are a trigger, as I think back to freezing January days trying to make an afternoon of a trip to the swings and a walk around a different supermarket.

With that mindset, the closing chapters of ‘Incredible’ packed an emotional wallop. I was overcome with a tidal wave of sadness as what could have been a fine last summer for motor sport’s greatest-ever commentator reacquainting with friends and colleagues, was instead spent interacting remotely in a nursing home, communicating with the outside world via e-mail.

The journey to get there, however, is one of joy. For a generation of fans, Murray Walker is motor sport. The not-so-silent partner to three decades of Formula 1 action: Think Senna vs Prost and it’s Murray’s voice in your head, ditto Mansell in Adelaide or Hill and Schumacher.

Maurice Hamilton is faced with a near-impossible task. No one wants to read about Murray Walker as much as they want to hear him shouting “Go, Go, Go” on the telly every other weekend. Nonetheless, Hamilton is an ideal choice of biographer: Having shared the commentary box, paddock and insider network with Murray, he is able to write from a position of common experience and a contact list capable of wheedling out some great stories.

That said, you can broadly guess the narrative and focus of the book. But here Hamilton’s craft comes to the fore, effortlessly knitting Murray and Formula 1’s stories together without either becoming stale. Another brilliant device is to print in full some of Murray’s iconic commentary moments – the wonder being (for fans of a certain age) they leap out of the page as if you were watching live.

Whilst I was broadly familiar with several of the stories in the book – I had come across Steve Rider’s recollections of the BHP BTCC days before (although they are still great tales) – there was still lots I didn’t know or expect. For example I laughed out loud at an anecdote from the 1994 Imola weekend – yes, you read that correctly. There are other surprises (at least to me), but I won’t spoil them here.

As you may expect ‘Incredible’ is a fairly one-sided tribute, although from some of the contributions you get the impression there are some things left unsaid. But then, to reach the top in two professions you have to be driven, and there are the occasional glimpses of when Murray had to get his elbows out. I would have liked some more on Murray’s non-F1 commentaries, as although scrambling, rallycross and touring cars is well covered, everything from powerboats to Formula Ford came under his portfolio.

Simply put, Murray was the best commentator motor sport has ever had, and during my lifetime he will be the benchmark against which all others are judged. His skill in both conveying deep insight into a complex and technical sport, whilst sounding like he’s standing next to you having a chat, is unequalled.

Throughout ‘Incredible’ Maurice Hamilton captures the essence and energy of Murray’s commentaries, whilst interlinking anecdotes and tributes illustrating why he’s so loved by fans and the paddock alike. As such this should be riding on high on fans’ Christmas lists.

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RaceFans rating

Rating four out of five

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“Murray Walker: Incredible! A Tribute to a Formula 1 Legend”

Author: Maurice Hamilton
Publisher: Penguin (Bantam Press)
Published: 11th November 2021
Pages: 272
Price: £20.00
ISBN: 9781787635593


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Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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14 comments on ““Murray Walker: Incredible!” by Maurice Hamilton reviewed”

  1. Just reading this review of the book brings a tear to my eye.

    I’m not the sort of person who feels connection to celebrities in general, but Murray is very close to my heart and it was like losing an old friend.

    This is definitely one for the shopping list

  2. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
    28th November 2021, 10:34

    I read Murray’s autobiography a few years back and that was brilliantly written, a real page-turner. Murray may have had his favourites off-track, but during the race he was equally enthusiastic about all of them, he was such a warm, generous and respectful commentator. Although no-one will ever match Murray’s style of delivery I thought Ben Edwards did a wonderful job of replicating his general approach, for me he is the only commentator to have come close to matching Murray.

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      28th November 2021, 12:00

      @slightlycrusty Agree very much with Murray being one of a kind, and also that Ben Edwards is very much one of the best we’ve had since him. On a similar note, I also really enjoy Alex Jacques’ commentary, especially in the 2 years he did for the Pit Lane Channel on F1TV, but also on Channel 4 as well. I think Sky missed a real gem when they didn’t pick him up. In my opinion, he’s got a great voice and a real talent for commentating over something live with exactly the right mix of information and enthusiasm. There was a great video on YouTube which was the tribute compilation of his 2020 commentary from when he left the PLC, although that has since been taken down. Some of his highlights, again in my opinion, include this from F2 in 2017, but also him commentating on the last few laps of Austria 2019, Brazil 2019, Abu Dhabi 2019 and Britain 2020, all the way throughout Germany 2019 and Italy, Turkey and Sakhir 2020. As I say, I don’t think anyone will ever match Murray but Edwards and Jacques are probably the best we’ve got right now

      1. include this from F2 in 2017

        A bit offtopic, I know, but they were absolutely raving about the move(s) Leclerc made there. I wonder what the reaction would be if Verstappen did something similar in the following two races against Hamilton. The same enthusiasm and admiration?

      2. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
        28th November 2021, 18:22

        @randommallard Yes, it takes me a while to warm to colour commentators, but Alex has steadily grown on me after a period of mourning Ben’s departure. I’ve recently got into F1 E Sports on Formula One’s youtube channel – Alex commentates on that too. Much to my surprise I’m absolutely hooked on it, it feels like real sport rather than game-playing. Well worth a watch, if you don’t already.

        1. RandomMallard (@)
          1st December 2021, 9:47

          @slightlycrusty Interesting note about F1 eSports. I’ve never taken too much note of it but I’ve watched a couple of highlight videos. Racing and F1 is definitely an example of eSports done right for me though, as it at least somewhat resembles the real thing with a wheel and pedals rather than just sat in front of a keyboard (although admittedly I’m a controller player when I play racing games myself). If you’re enjoying some of Alex’s commentary (and I’m assuming your UK-based as you’re talking a lot about Channel 4), if you can afford £2.29 for one month of F1TV Access you can get access to the F1TV archive. I think it has pretty much every race since 2010 and most of the famous/good races from about 1980 until 2009, but it also has the Pit Lane Channel on races from 2019 and 2020 with Alex Jacques’ commentary, and they are really good alternative ways of viewing great races (like the ones I’ve mentioned above).

          Also, if you weren’t aware you can still occasionally find Ben Edwards doing some commentary, mainly for Radio 5 Live when Jack Nicholls (also not a bad commentator imo) is away commentating for Formula E. Here’s one he did for France earlier this year. I think he also did Styria for C4 when the main crew were in a covid induced isolation as well iirc

          1. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
            1st December 2021, 11:08

            @randommallard Thanks for that, I may give F1TV Access a go during the off-season, can’t really complain about £2.29!

            I never understood the attraction of F1 eSports, surely it’s just people playing a game… until I tuned in about 1 month ago and saw a proper sporting contest, albeit in the digital world. It certainly helps to have 2 professional commentators on hand.

          2. RandomMallard (@)
            1st December 2021, 17:52

            @slightlycrusty I would highly recommend F1TV. As I say, you get full races for every season in the last 10 years (except the one for the current calendar year. Usually the races for that are released in early to mid-January), but you also get quite a lot of other content, including their Weekend Debrief, the full Jolyon Palmer analysis and the full Tech Talk (which is excellent). And for the price it is very much good value for money imo.

  3. Thank you for the review!
    To me, Murray was pretty close to being part of the family. I am old enough to remember his father, Graham, commentating at motorcycle race meetings on the BBC Light Programme – “Now here comes Geoff Duke in the lead! I will hold the microphone close to the track so that you get the full sound of that Norton!” I am sure that Graham shoved the microphone into the Norton’s megaphone exhaust pipe. That, for me, is where Murray got his excited enthusiasm from.
    If Murray could have been closer to the action, he would have been right in there!
    These days, I watch the ultra-brief highlights on the Monday night after a Grand Prix with the sound turned off. In Murray’s time it was well worth listening to. Here in Melbourne (Australia) there used to be a Murray Walker admiration group.
    How things have changed!
    Michael A.

  4. Murray Walker..thank you.

  5. RandomMallard (@)
    28th November 2021, 12:23

    I think Murray is an excellent example of Formula 1 at it’s best. No rivalry, no favouritism (at least on the comms most of the time), a brilliant voice, loved by everyone. This season has highlighted some of the opposite of that (I myself am guilty in some of it as well), but I just hope that we can get more characters like Murray

  6. I still remember playing f1 ’96, I think it was, with Walker’s voice as the running commentary. He was the only voice of the sport for me when I started watching as a young teen in the early 80s. Pure legend, equal parts brilliant and unintentionally hilarious. Probably never to be matched.

  7. I’ve just found myself reading Murray Walker quotes because of this review, and though I know them all inside out, they still bring a smile to my face.

    As a kid, I didn’t particularly like him, I preferred Edwards & Watson on Eurosport. I got frustrated when he went on baffling rants about Pedro Diniz when we were quite clearly watching Panis’ quali lap.

    As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve really warmed to his charm, when I rewatch old races I’m happy when it’s him on commentary with Brundle politely correcting him.

    He loved what he was doing, and it comes across, he sort of lacked a self-conscious filter over his words and that can be refreshing, especially since he seemed to have a sense of humour about it.

    “Eight minutes past the hour here in Belgium – and presumably eight minutes past the hour everywhere in the world”.

    1. To: Bernasaurus,
      For me it was the late James Hunt who quietly and politely ‘corrected’ Murray.
      Michael A.

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