The race start is getting close. Relaxed until now, Walker is on the edge of the armchair and his eyes frequently check the screen. We both notice the ‘Go, Go, GO!’ on an overhead sign. Remembering Walker’s other successful career as an advertising man (he wrote many catchy slogans and oversaw ‘A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play’ as the account manager), I ask if that famous race-starter was a deliberate creation. He bats the idea away: “You say what’s in your heart, Steve,” he says. “You don’t have time to work those things out.”
The TV noise builds, the lights go on, then out, Valtteri Bottas erupts off pole ahead of Hamilton and forges through the first corner into a handy lead he is never to lose. Hamilton sits a couple of seconds behind, just out of Bottas’s turbulence, and Vettel behind him, keeping up for the first few laps, then gradually losing time in third. Ferrari team-mate Kimi Räikkönen is losing even more.
Ricciardo isn’t far away but his hopes are soon dashed by unreliability. This is turning out to be an easy one for the commentators, we both acknowledge. That isn’t always the case, Walker asserts, and it was especially tough before electronic lap timing arrived.
“It was always risky,” he explains. “You’d do your best to interpret the pictures, without having any control over what was being shown. I’d time the gaps between cars with my stopwatch while keeping talking and watching movements through the field on an old-time lap chart. The risk was always that while I was looking away, the leader would go off, catch fire, jump out and punch a marshal – just as I was telling the world Derek Warwick had moved nicely to 12th. You could take a lot of stick over that.” Walker acknowledges that his spur-of-the-moment commentary sometimes contained ‘Murrayisms’ but it never played much on his mind, mainly because he was doing the job professionally and nobody ever wanted him to stop.