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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Q&A: Murray Walker
Murray Walker retired from commentating in 2001

Legendary motor sport commentator Murray Walker joined BBC Sport to answer a selection of your e-mails.

As the voice of motor sport for more than 50 years, Walker's enthusiasm introduced millions to the previously guarded world of Formula One.

After 18 months away from the commentary box Murray's passion for the sport remains undiminished, as demonstrated by his recent role in the Targa Tasmania rally.

Currently promoting his number one bestselling autobiography, Unless I'm Very Much Mistaken (Collins Willow, 7.99), Murray took time out of his busy schedule to answer a selection of your e-mails.

Cliff Hooker of Reading receives a free copy for the best question asked.



Tyler Jones, LA

Do you think Formula One has become boring as a spectacle? What can be done to spice it up?

I don't think Formula One has become boring as a spectacle, therefore I don't think anything needs to be done to spice things up.

There's no such thing as a dull Grand Prix as far as I'm concerned because I'm lucky enough to have been right at the centre of it, to know what's going on behind the scenes and to know the drivers, the cars and the strategies.

However, I willingly accept that until this year the normal viewer could be forgiven for thinking that the racing was processional, because it was. Michael Schumacher and Ferrari were winning everything and nobody wants to see the same team people winning all the time.

But as a result of the rule changes which have changed qualifying and the way races are run and the way strategies are created and implemented, I think the races this year have been absolutely terrific.

We haven't had a dull Grand Prix and I think all the changes have been in the right direction and I love it the way it is.

So you think the regulations have done their job?

I do, and it's not just me that thinks it. People that were coming up to me last year and saying "it's boring, I've stopped watching" are now saying "hey, isn't it great, I'm back again!" And the television viewing figures are up a lot.


Cliff Hooker, Reading

It seems like the bikes have continued to maintain a good level of excitement and competition whilst Formula One has dropped by the wayside.

Is there anything you think Formula One could learn from bikes to make Formula One a more driver-based sport and hence a little less predictable?

An excellent question. The thing about bikes, which are very close to my heart, is that you can see the whole rider and you can see how spectacular they are and because you've only got one contact patch (the rear tyre) through which all the power goes, it is a lot more spectacular.

For reasons of safety the drivers of Formula One cars have got less and less visible, basically you can see their helmet and that's about it. There was a time in the past when the drivers stuck out of the car and you could see how much work he was doing.

But sadly there isn't anything you can do because you can't do anything that makes the sport less safe.


Graham Wood, Hebburn

Are there any easy ways of increasing the amount of overtaking? There was very little of it in Canada and none (as usual) in Monaco?

The simple answer to the question is, no, there are not easy ways of increasing overtaking. There never is any overtaking at Monaco because it's virtually impossible to do so there and if you're not on the front of the grid, you can forget about it.

There wasn't much in Canada and the reason is, if you get up close behind a Formula One car now, the aerodynamics of your car are adversely affected.

But people talk as though there was a time in the past when there was a lot of overtaking, but there never has been. It's the nature of the beast.

The cars are very alike in performance, normally about four seconds covers the quickest on the grid and the slowest on the grid. The drivers are all very good and it's extraordinarily difficult to overtake and if that's what people want to see, they're not going to do it in Formula One.

They need to be watching Champ Car racing in America which is a very different spectacle.


Paul Smith, Aylesbury

Do you think that Bernie Ecclestone's continual sniping at the facilities at Silverstone is justified?

No, I don't. I have to declare my interests: I am a very proud member of the British Racing Drivers Club which owns Silverstone, so you might think that my answer is going to be biased.

But I just don't understand where Bernie is coming from in his continual sniping at Silverstone. There are circuits in Formula One, like Hungary and Brazil, which are absolutely archaic compared to Silverstone.

Countries like Malaysia and Australia have got an enormous amount of state money going into the circuits to improve them. Silverstone is doing the best it possibly can, and you may say it's not good enough.

But it's a fine circuit with excellent facilities which are upgraded every year. I just don't understand Bernie Ecclestone's point of you, particularly when you bare in mind that there's 20m of his money which he's invested in Silverstone.

I would have hoped that he would have been encouraging them instead of continually putting them down.


Do you think there's a realistic chance that Britain may lose its Grand Prix?

I sincerely hope not. I hope that it's sabre-rattling that Bernie is doing for some private agenda of his.

I know not what it is, but you have to say that with places like Shanghai and Bahrain with unlimited state funds being created, Silverstone is going to be at a disadvantage. It hasn't got state money, it comes from the British Racing Drivers Club, Brands Hatch circuit and Bernie Ecclestone who are backing it.

It would be a very sad day if Silverstone lost its Grand Prix because Britain is what Formula One is all about. But I can't guarantee it's not going to happen.


Dave Brennan, Wiltshire

What circuits in the calendar are your favourites and why?

This is another ironic commentary on Formula One. My favourite circuit is Spa in Belgium, which is the most spectacular and natural circuits and one of the most historic. But it's not on the calendar this year because of a disagreement over tobacco advertising.

I hope it's going to be back on the calendar next year, but there's no guarantee. It's my favourite circuit and the drivers' favourite circuit from the point of view of racing and spectacle and naturalness. My favourite place is Australia, which I adore.

I like the people, the organisation and administration is superb. They've got an excellent circuit at Albert Park in Melbourne, they had a very good one in Adelaide where we spent a very happy 11 years, and Australia is my number one choice.


Saleem, Manchester

Which race would you say was the most memorable and exciting in all your time commentating on Formula One?

It's a very difficult question to answer because I was commentating on Formula One for 53 years during which time I saw a lot of very dramatic and memorable races and they all tend to blur together.

Two of the most emotional from my point of view are the Hungarian Grand Prix in 1992 when my friend Nigel Mansell won the World Championship.

It was one of the earliest races in a season where the championship was decided, but Nigel is a very good friend of mine and I've followed him all through his career so it was a very emotional race for me, although it wasn't a very exciting one.

Another one was the Japanese Grand Prix in 1996, where my mate Damon Hill won his only championship in most emotional circumstances.

In terms of the most exciting, the Monaco Grand Prix in 1982, when five different drivers led in the closing two laps. People were breaking down, running out of petrol, and in the end it was Ricardo Patrese who won the race.

Or 1992 in Monaco, when Mansell thought he had a puncture when he was in the lead, came in, changed his tyres and wheels. Ayrton Senna took the lead, but Nigel caught him and spent about six laps crawling all over the back of Senna's McLaren but couldn't pass him.


Alan, Co. Louth, Ireland

Who was the better driver, Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher?

Impossible question to answer. There's no doubt that Ayrton Senna was the most charismatic and mystical personality and had a gigantic impact on the sport. In the opinion of many people he's the greatest driver who ever lived.

I honestly couldn't' put a cigarette paper between him and Schumacher. The sad thing is that because of Senna's tragic death at Imola in 1994, when Schumacher was just starting to come good and had actually beaten Senna in the first two races of the season, we didn't really see them racing against each other for very long.

But I have to say I can't answer the question because they are as good as each other.


Mark, Amsterdam

Who is your all time favourite F1 driver and why?

My favourite was Nigel Mansell, but that doesn't mean to say he was the best. I think Fangio was the best, and then Schumacher, Senna, Jim Clarke, Alain Prost and Jackie Stewart. You couldn't separate them.

But my favourite was Mansell, because I commentated on him from his very early days in racing in Formula Ford right through to when he won the World Championship in 1992.

He's a friend of mine and I'm biased in his favour, but I actually got more excitement and drama as a commentator from Nigel Mansell than I got from all the rest of them put together, because he had balls the size of melons, he was a gigantically spectacular and brave driver and wherever Nigel was something was happening.



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