James Allen hits back

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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?

41 comments on “James Allen hits back”

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  1. 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

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. Interestingly, F1 Racing Magazine has James Allen up against their ‘Reader Panel’ where readers (subscribers?) can ask him questions..

    This month, as the 2008 season comes to a close, we’ve collared ITV F1 commentator James Allen for an F1 Racing-style grilling. He’s a love-hate figure for millions of F1 fans across the world; but in addition to being the ‘voice of Formula 1’, Allen is an accomplished F1 journalist and author. During almost 20 years in the sport, he’s written books with Michael Schumacher, observed the rise of Lewis Hamilton and much more.

    If you were wondering what it’s like to work with Martin Brundle, how it feels to be the object of incessant criticism from fans of the sport you love or what it’s like to fill Murray Walker’s shoes…

    It can’t be a nice experience to put your all into your job knowing that the criticism is just waiting for you once you put your microphone down at the end of the race. In fact it must take a serious amount of control and self-belief.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of James Allen and I’ve been heavily critical of him both on here and through ITV-F1’s Contact page when I’ve been really wound up, but credit to him for standing up to it now. I think a large part of it – for me at least – is that James Allen is the front-man to the ITV team so to a large extent I focus my irritation with ad breaks towards him.

  12. Oh and in his early days he always looked that little bit smug…

  13. At least we dont have to hear him say “…Dives into the pits” ever again. There are so many adjectives to describe a car entering the pit lane, why oh why does it always have to remain the same!

    I for one will be wearing my “Stop the ****” t-shirt proudly today, in the hope that in some small way i might have contributed to his commentary career downfall…

  14. I actually like James Allen. Perhaps it is because the motorsport commentary I am used to on SpeedTV is quite poor. I think the presentation on ITV has been good and I hope that the coverage on the BBC will at least be of equal quality. No commercials will be nice, but here we get commercials every 5 minutes so that is not a huge gain from my perspective. Anyway, should James Allen not do the coverage for the BBC I will always enjoy his call of Button’s win.

  15. I think that James was great in fact i think he was so good that i would like to suggest that he come to australia and replace “rusty” and “cam” the commentators/hosts on australian tv. They are the absolute biggest most frustrating incompetents to ever be employed and i would do almost anything to get them off and put someone of james’ experience and reputation on instead. Please please move to sunny australia James!

  16. Chris Johnson
    3rd November 2008, 1:31

    I watched a lot of ITV race broadcasts (via the internet), and anyone who complains about James Allen should be cursed with the US Speed TV crew. Allen is no Murry Walker, but Brundle is no James Hunt, either.

  17. I think this sums up James Allen’s career:


  18. i can think of so many people i would like to commentate. allen doesn’t even figure. he’s about as useful a motoring journalist as jeremy clarkson. way out his depth springs to mind.

  19. one last time james, what do those white stripes mean?

  20. been watching F1 for couple of years, and never found a problem with james allen, infact i was hoping he would move over to bbc, not just him but the whole team.

    intresting reading tho, i must say there are so many haters out there, but then again i can understand how you people feel.

    i cant stand that man utd fan clive tildsley now he is a bias english fan..

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