James Allen hits back

After eight years as ITV-F1 commentator James Allen will commentate on his final live Grand Prix – for the time being at least – at Interlagos this weekend.

In that time he’s been subject to a huge amount of criticism, much of it coming on internet forums and blogs.

In a retrospective look at his time with ITV-F1, Allen has finally spoken about his reaction to the criticism:

I was always pretty confident that when Murray decided to retire I would get the gig, but never anything less than utterly self-critical and seeking to improve with every race and every year, which I think I?ve done.

It?s a very difficult and high-pressure job, because with 20 cars there are 20 different points of focus.

You have to read the race, using a TV picture and the timing screens, while speaking at the same time and still leave spare brain capacity for talking to the producer and thinking about what comes next.

And as it?s live and it?s all happening very quickly it?s very easy to make a mistake, which is why you always need to allow yourself a margin.

Having a brilliant communicator like Martin Brundle as a partner helps a great deal too.

I take a journalistic approach to commentary, I?m a storyteller; it?s my job to tell the story, not to be the story.

Of course there are many people at home in their armchairs who think they could do it better and one of the challenges for me was that I replaced Murray just as the internet opened up to allow everyone to have their say in chat rooms and forums.

But I know from market research and viewer feedback that the pros massively outnumber the vocal minority of cons.

I?m very proud of the work that we have done with the North One production team over the years and we have 2 BAFTAs and 12 Royal Television Society awards to prove that the TV industry, like most viewers, rate our work very highly.

Read the article in full here and have your say below.

More on ITV-F1’s final race: ITV F1: goodbye or good riddance?

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41 comments on James Allen hits back

  1. The poor bloke was always onto a loser following Murray Walker…

  2. James Allen is the single most annoying commentator in sport today, no question about it. Perhaps he is slow picking up on things and continuously mixing up drivers because he is too busy praising hamilton and showing us replays of hamilton and then going on to tell us what hamilton said in an interview yesterday before mentioning what he had for dinner and his plans for tonight!!

    He is so one sided it is almost sickening and then misses telling us about what action is going on on the track (i.e. overtakes and pitstops) because he is slavering on about a load of crap! I will be glad to see the back of him and hope he NEVER makes a return to commentating for motorsport, EVER!!

  3. Internet said on 1st November 2008, 21:54

    Did anyone complain about Allen’s love affair with Schumacher before Hamilton was around? I think not. Ironic that he gets most of his hate from Ferrari fans and anti-Hamilton brigade.

  4. Internet, over exposure of ANY driver during a race gets annoying, especially if the driver in question is so controversial and hated as Hamilton. And on that matter, it is not just hamilton getting over exposed, Button seems to get a lot of air time on ITV considering his position and the face he has not won a championship and has took 1 race victory from over 100 races. I understand as a british channel they would be slightly biased towards the british drivers/teams but this really is too much.

  5. Internet said on 1st November 2008, 22:17

    But did you complain when it was a Ferrari driver getting most of the exposure? Somehow I doubt it. As for you Button comment, he hardly gets any coverage.

  6. Alison said on 1st November 2008, 22:22

    Yes I did complain at James’ adoration of schumi. But what I find most disturbing is that he called his sons Enzo and Emerson – there is hero worship and there is obsession. To be an effective commentator you need to be a knowledgeable enthusiast. I watch many forms of motorsport and attend races at many levels and the only commentator that has me throwing things at my TV is the inimitable JA

  7. Internet, considering his performance Button is over exposed, always interviewed on the grid when there are many other drivers, quite often shows an interview of JB on the qualy or race build up. It was like today for the qualifying build up, ‘and after the break we have an interview with formula1’s forgotten man, Jenson Button’. How is he formula 1’s forgotten man when he gets 10 times as much air time as the likes of Sutil, Bourdais, Heidfeld and Nakajima to name a few?

  8. Karlos said on 1st November 2008, 22:44

    James Allen gets about a 7 out of 10 from me. As Nicholas Nassim Taleb said, a review of your work by someone you don’t know says more about them than it does about your work.

    The hardcore fans on sites like these will be very different from the average F1 TV viewer in terms of knowledge and what they’re looking for in a commentator, and I’ve no doubt that ITV’s market and audience research will have shown that James Allen has had positive feedback.

    His pro-Hamilton stance seems to have annoyed everyone, but all the causal fans that I know (who are British) tend to support Hamilton or are happy to see him win, and ITV’s coverage reflects someone like that, no matter what us more ferverent supporters would like.

  9. I feel quite sorry for James Allen. Fair enough I’m not one of his biggest fans, but he’s an F1 fan through and through, and to replace arguably the greatest commentator that ever lived was always going to be hard act to follow. At least he’s tried the role, and through the criticism, has continued in the role. Although personally, I think he should stick to writing.

  10. zerogee said on 2nd November 2008, 0:34

    Sadly, television people live in their own little worlds and haven’t the faintest idea what viewers want, which is why they always look surprised when something tanks/goes ballistic.

    Still, we could have done a lot, lot worse than James. A lot worse.

  11. marco said on 2nd November 2008, 0:45

    This guy is the worst commentator ever no doubt about that. He is so very biased for Hamilton he’s better off finally being fired so that he can be president of his fan club.His anti-Ferrari attitude has gone way too far thank God he’s done.

  12. beneboy said on 2nd November 2008, 1:25

    Martin Brundle’s ITV F1 memories don’t include James Allen:

  13. Here in Australia we get the ITV coverage of F1 and one thing I hate about James Allen is how bias he is. If his not talking about Hamilton his most likely talking about Button and for those rare times his not talking about either one his mentioning Coulthard.

    ITV Don’t just broadcast their coverage in the UK but all over the world which is why I don’t understand how he seems to only focus mainly on those two british drivers all the time.

    Many moments where Martin is talking about a certain driver and all of sudden JA interupts when ever Hamilton sets the fastest lap or how skilled hamilton is when he passes another driver in a slower car.

  14. Amy – Well said !!!!!
    I have watched ITV broadcast for 3 yrs 2005-08. And James Allen has indeed been single most irritating character on that team. I can very well understand a British broadcaster being partisan about British drivers and the team. but James Allen in his enthusiam over did the things.
    In their enthusiasm to support the British Drivers/Team,ITV indirectly triggered, Anti-British stance among the fans.

    Anyways good thing is this statement is indicator that James Allen Act is over :D . Would there be a Encore in form of BBC stint :-? I hope not

  15. Chalky said on 2nd November 2008, 8:52

    Personally I found James’ approach to commentary way too obvious, in what he said, and often ‘behind’ interesting developments that one could see happening on track (so he came over as slow and inattentive, unfortunately).

    The key to good commentry is to say what you see. That’s all you really need to do. This works on all sports.
    A secondary expert or ex-sportsman can provide technical input. It’s simple really.
    This is why Murray Walker \ John Motson (Football) \ Jonathan Agnew (Cricket) were \ are so good. Just say what you see. Even if you see it wrong. Too much babble about what isn’t happening in front of you can seperate you from the audience too much.

    I think James Allen did a competent job. Nothing outstanding, but nothing horrendous either.
    One thing he could have done, but that could be ITV influence, was to tone down the British bias a bit.
    But I guess his main job was to commentate for a British audience.

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