Ranking the Top 10 Formula 1 Commentators

Fraser Masefield@@fmasefieldContributor IOctober 15, 2013

Ranking the Top 10 Formula 1 Commentators

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Murray Walker celebrated turning 90 years of age last week, 12 years after hanging up his microphone.

    We will almost certainly never get to see the likes of another Murray Walker again, and there have been many who have tried to pick up the mantle over the years.

    While some have failed to get close to imitating his many quirks and passionate enthusiasm, some have triumphed in their own differing ways.

    Here then is a list of the top 10 Formula One commentators both in radio and television over the years.

    My judgements are based on those who have been either lead or co-commentators and, as such, presenters, pit lane reporters and studio anchors do not feature.

    And they are, of course, extremely subjective. One man’s chalk is another man’s cheese, and opinions on commentators across all sports is a hotly contested area of debate.

10. Jonathan Legard

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    Jonathan Legard began his foray into the world of Formula One broadcasting back in 1997 for BBC Radio 5 Live and filled the airwaves with his exuberant commentary for eight years.

    Following a switch to cover his other passion of football he joined the BBC television crew as F1 commentator during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

    Legard gained something of reputation for getting his facts muddled up from time to time, although not quite in the same endearing way as Murray Walker.

9. Simon Taylor

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    Having become editor of Autosport magazine not long after leaving university, Simon Taylor launched several leading automotive magazines including What Car and Classic and Sports Car.

    He began to commentate on races over the radio and became BBC Radio’s F1 correspondent until 1997 when he switched to television as part of ITV’s commentary team alongside Tony Jardine.

    Taylor continues to commentate on smaller motorsport events and the Goodwood Festival of Speed television coverage, while he recently played the role of the BBC commentator in Ron Howard’s Rush.

    Not that I’m criticising Howard for an excellent piece of cinema, but it really should have been Murray Walker, shouldn’t it?

8. Anthony Davidson and Johnny Herbert

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    It’s hard to separate the two former Formula One drivers for their expert knowledge and insight into the sport for their excellent work on Sky Sports F1.

    Both Herbert and Davidson provide expert analysis and commentary during the free practice Friday sessions as co-commentators to David Croft.

7. Ben Edwards

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    Now the BBC’s lead F1 commentator, Edwards started out his motorsport career with an ambition to become a top driver and raced against the likes of current co-commentator David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen in the Euro Vauxhall Lotus Championship.

    When his driving career petered out he gained a commentary job alongside Tiff Needell at the BBC before covering F1 for Eurosport alongside former F1 driver John Watson.

    A true "jack of all trades," Edwards enjoyed stints covering Champ Cars, A1 Grand Prix, BTCC and British Formula Three Championship for various broadcasters until it was announced he would take over as the BBC’s lead commentator for 2012, with Martin Brundle moving the other way to Sky Sports.

6. David Coulthard

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    Having hung up his racing gloves at the end of the 2008 season, David Coulthard joined the BBC as an expert summariser in 2009 before graduating to the role of co-commentator from 2011, initially with former F1 rival Martin Brundle then Ben Edwards.

    When Brundle left the BBC for Sky it was left to Coulthard to take up the mantle of the famous grid walk, and he has coped admirably with the pressure, his familiarity with many of his former racing teams and buddies gaining him access to insightful pre-race interviews.

5. James Allen

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    The current voice of Formula One over the BBC radio airwaves, James Allen formerly worked on ITV’s F1 coverage as the pit lane reporter and then co-commentator as Murray Walker began to wind down his career by covering fewer races.

    Allen splits his involvement with BBC Radio 5 Live on race weekends with roles as F1 correspondent for BBC News and reporter for Ten Sport in Australia.

    His insightful Twitter feed, @jamesallenonf1, is one of the most widely followed in the sport with almost 100,000 followers.

4. David Croft

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    “Crofty,” as he is well known in the business, is the lead commentator for Sky Sports F1.

    Having covered a multitude of sports from the 2002 FIFA World Cup to the 2004 Athens Olympics, Croft fount his true calling in Formula One after succeeding Maurice Hamilton as BBC Radio 5 Live’s commentator and presenter from the 2006 season.

    After six seasons filling the radio airwaves with his passionate commentary, Croft gained the coveted role of lead commentator for Sky Sports’ coverage, where he continues to shine.

3. James Hunt

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    For many people, James Hunt is almost as well known for his being part of the greatest F1 commentary double act as for his 1976 championship winning season.

    When Hunt retired from racing in 1979, the BBC approached him to become a commentator alongside Murray Walker. Tales from their early years of sharing a single microphone are legendary, including Hunt cracking the microphone cord like a whip to get it out of Walker’s hand.

    But it is for his blunt, no-nonsense approach to commentary that Hunt will be remembered, speaking out fiercely against back markers such as Andrea de Cesaris in the above clip.

2. Martin Brundle

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    A brilliant F1 driver in his own right, Martin Brundle has arguably achieved the rare feat of achieving greater levels of excellence in his subsequent career as an F1 analyst and commentator.

    Having largely retired from competitive motor racing, Brundle joined ITV Sport when their coverage began in 1997 initially alongside Murray Walker then James Allen. Brundle became well known for interjecting and correcting Walker on his numerous mistakes, which only added to the hilarity of the situation.

    He moved from ITV to the BBC as lead commentator from 2009 to 2011, and for the past two seasons has taken the same role for Sky Sports F1 coverage.

    Brundle's pre-race grid walks have now achieved legendary status, and it is a measure of his success that he has won the RTS Television Sports Award for best Sports Pundit in 1998, 1999, 2005 and 2006.

    Shortly before Formula One returned to the BBC in 2009, The Times described Brundle as the greatest TV analyst in this or any other sport.

1. Murray Walker

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    Of course, there is only one person that springs to mind when you think of Formula One commentary.

    The legend that is Murray Walker began his career covering the Isle of Man TT, motocross and rallycross, but it was his move to F1 in the late 1970s that saw his career really take off.

    Walker formed a popular double act with former champion James Hunt during the 1980s and early 1990s, with their contrasting characters making for entertaining listening.

    But it is for his endearing knack of getting his names and facts in a muddle that gained him cult status with F1 fans and casual observers alike.


    Have I missed anyone off the list you think should be there. Does Maurice Hamilton deserve a slot? Or perhaps Alan Jones for his work on Network Ten in Australia? Or Steve Matchett for NBC in America?

    Feel free to have your say below.