A Journalist in F1

Paul Frère, the celebrated Belgian automotive journalist, was also a talented racing driver. Here he sits in a Ferrari 555 “Squalo” in the pits at Monte Carlo before practice for the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix which took place on May 22, 1955. For this race Ferrari had entered four cars, two of the 555 type and two of the older 625F1s. The two “Squalos,” so called because it was thought that they liked like sharks, did not do particularly well. The one driven by Harry Schell retired with engine failure and the one above, started by Piero Taruffi and then taken over by Frère, finished eighth and last of the runners at the finish, having circulated at the back of the pack the entire time. The two 625F1s did rather better. With the retirements of the threats from Mercedes-Benz and Lancia, Maurice Trintignant ended up the winner with his 625F1 and the other 625F1, driven by Nino Farina, came fourth.

The Ferrari 553 and 555 models, very similar in most respects, had adopted a coil spring front suspension for 1955 and their motors, a wide valve angle derivative of Lampredi’s rather more successful F2 and 625 motors, never seemed to give any advantage over the 625.

Paul Frère started his racing career in 1948 when he drove a prewar MG PB in the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps with his friend Jacques Swaters who owned the old MG and thereafter became the Belgian Ferrari distributor. Frère then got an opportunity to drive an HWM-Alta for John Heath’s team in 1952, gaining renown when he won the non-championship Grand Prix des Frontières at Chimay in Belgium. After the appearance at Monaco in 1955, Ferrari gave Frère another shot at the Squalo for the 1955 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa where he finished an excellent fourth. The next year Ferrari loaned him a Ferrari-Lancia for the Belgian Grand Prix and was rewarded with second place behind his Ferrari teammate and winner Peter Collins. The high point of Frère’s competitive career came just before his retirement from racing in 1960 when he and Olivier Gendebien won the Le Mans 24 Hours with a Ferrari 250TR. For many years both before and after his Le Mans win, Paul Frère was a widely respected motoring journalist and regularly evaluated new high performance cars well into his late 80s. Frère died in 2008 at the age of 91.

Photo by Ami Guichard ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com


  1. Bob Kendall · · Reply

    I read his racing memoir, “From Starting Grid To Checkered Flag” when it came out in 1961. Long out-of-print. In it, he said he had no intention to drive in the Belgian GP in 1956. He arrived at Spa in his capacity as journalist and asked to try the Ferrari-Lancia (probably with a story in mind). He liked it a lot, especially compared with the 4-cylinder Ferraris he’d driven. And his times were competitive, and he felt comfortable in it. So when Ferrari asked him if he wanted to race the next day, he decided “Why not?”


  2. Jim sitz · · Reply

    Regarding his remarkable drive at 1956 Belgian GP, i think the truth might be
    that Ferrari driver Mike Hawthorn found himself in conflict by having entered Spa
    for both Ferrari and Vanwall,!

    But in any event, 2nd place as guest driver was remarkable…
    Not bad for a journalist, …NOT BAD AT ALL..
    Also first win for new boy at Ferrari Peter Collins who became
    his Golden Boy.,

    jims sitz


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