Legendary Formula 1 commentator Murray Walker has died at the age of 97.
Walker commentated on his first grand prix race for the BBC at Silverstone in 1949 and became a full-time F1 commentator in 1978.
He became synonymous with F1 through his commentary, first with the BBC and then ITV, before retiring in 2001.
“He was to so many of us fans of F1 the voice that epitomised the sport we love,” said Stuart Pringle, Silverstone managing director.
“Knowledgeable beyond words and with a passion that occasionally got the better of him in commentary, he brought the sport and some of its greatest moments to life in a way that ensured they remained seared in our memories for ever.”
BBC Director General, Tim Davie said: “Over decades, no-one conveyed the excitement and passion of motorsport like Murray Walker.
“For millions, he was quite simply the voice that captured the spirit of Formula 1. Respected by drivers and fans alike, he will be hugely missed.”
Walker was appointed an OBE in 1996 for his services to broadcasting and motor racing.
A statement from the British Racing Drivers’ Club said: “It’s with great sadness we share the news of the passing of BRDC associate member Murray Walker OBE.
“A friend, a true motorsport legend, the nation’s favourite commentator and a contagious smile.
“We thank Murray for all he has done for our community. RIP our friend.”
Walker’s co-commentators included the late James Hunt, who was F1 world champion in 1976, and the pair built up a memorable partnership.
He also had a popular partnership with Martin Brundle, who paid tribute to his former colleague on social media.
“Wonderful man in every respect,” said Brundle. “National treasure, communication genius, Formula 1 legend.”
Former British F1 driver Sir Jackie Stewart said he spent a lot of time with Walker as their fathers both knew each other.
“He was a very special man in every respect,” the Scot told BBC Radio 5 Live. “I was lucky enough to know him well. In fact, I spoke to him several weeks ago where he was in a home.
“He was the perfect gentleman, a man who had great style and great skills with the English language.
“As a racing driver, from my own point of view, Murray was always the best.”
Stewart added: “He was very good at making mistakes. He made wonderful mistakes. He so much enjoyed the realisation of his error, he was such a character.
“A mistake didn’t mean anything wrong for Murray. It was something else to make a joke of.
“He was full of energy, he never sat to do a commentary. He stood up for the whole time.”
An F1 statement 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.”
World champions Mercedes echoed the view that Walker was “the voice of F1 to millions” and added that “his love, passion and positivity for our sport were unmatched”.
McLaren said: “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.”
James Allen succeeded Walker in the commentary box at ITV and told BBC Radio 5 Live: “He was so just much fun.
“The age difference between us was 45 years or something but he was so young in his mind.
“His career was in advertising, he was always aware of the audience.
“He was such a laugh. He didn’t like driving much on the continent so, all the foreign grands prix, I drove him around everywhere.
“One of my favourite stories, I drove him to a restaurant and when we came out there was a bunch of kids outside and one of them said ‘that’s Murray Walker’s driver’.
“He had a life incredibly well lived.”
More to follow.