James Allen will make a return to the commentary box

Former ITV F1 commentator James Allen has been confirmed as David Croft’s replacement in the BBC Radio 5 Live commentary line-up for the 2012 season.

The 45-year-old Englishman is a broadcasting veteran, having worked in Formula 1 since 1990 when he made his first appearance in the paddock as a press officer for the Brabham team.

When the team collapsed, he took up a post as the news editor for the AUTOSPORT magazine between 1992-4, while also dovetailing this with his first role in front of the cameras, as a pit-lane reporter for the American ESPN network between 1993-6.

James Allen When 1992 World Champion Nigel Mansell made the switch to IndyCars in 1993, Allen was hired by ITV to present the championship’s coverage to its UK audience.

When ITV gained the rights to broadcast Formula 1 in 1997, Allen returned to the pit-lane as a reporter, while Murray Walker and Martin Brundle fronted the commentary line-up.

He made his commentary debut at the 2000 French Grand Prix when Walker underwent hip surgery, and made five further appearances as lead commentator during the 2001 season when Walker wound down his career.

He joined the commentary team full-time from 2002 onwards, and fronted every Grand Prix until the network lost its broadcasting rights to the BBC at the end of the 2008 season.

Allen quickly gained a reputation for his excitable commentary style, although he did have the tendency to irk non-UK viewers with his (to use the term coined by F1 Rejects) “paroxysms of ecstasy” when a British driver won a race.

He was not picked up when the BBC took over the broadcasting reins, but remained an active part of the Formula 1 landscape, playing a correspondent-style role for the Australian F1 broadcasts on Network Ten and OneHD, as well as hosting the official FOM post-qualifying and post-race press conferences.

Brundle and Allen were a formidable duo in the ITV commentary box He is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable writer, having ghost-written Nigel Mansell’s autobiography, as well as writing two books on Michael Schumacher. He also runs his on website, which is well-regarded by many in the Formula 1 fan base.

“Anyone who has followed my career knows I love a challenge,” Allen wrote on his website when he made the announcement overnight.

“I’ve never done radio before and I’m really looking forward to adapting to a new medium.”

Allen confirmed that he would remain on board as part of Australia’s Formula 1 broadcast commitments.

[Original images via CRASH and LAT]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.