One of the staple partner championships on a Formula One weekend is the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, which provided a thrilling climax to its 2014 season alongside the United States Grand Prix in Austin this year.
Earl Bamber emerged as this year’s champion after a great battle with Kuba Giermaziak in the pair of races at Circuit of the Americas.
This past weekend, Bamber has now been named as Porsche’s newest factory driver slightly more than a month after Austin.
At Austin, MotorSportsTalk had the opportunity to speak with Jonas Krauss, manager, Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup. Krauss has now left Porsche, with Oliver Schwab replacing him as head of Supercup.
Nonetheless, with the 2014 season in the books, Krauss provided some good insights on where the single-make championship is following this season and where it can go in the future.
Q: What does it mean for Porsche to be on F1 weekends?
JK: F1 for us is a great place. It’s a good place for the teams and our sponsors to present themselves. Worldwide, we have a very good television package, although in America we need to do better. Marketing-wise it’s very good, and for the drivers it’s a very good place.
Q: If drivers are in Supercup, does that mean they are done looking at single-seaters?
JK: If you come to Supercup, your single-seater road is gone most of the time. Richie Stanaway did one season here, and is now back to GP3, but usually that doesn’t happen. A lot of guys come from the single-seater world, in say GP3 or Formula 3. But then they say, maybe we need to go a different way, and they step into our Porsche one-make cups.
Q: Has there been any recent single-seater talent you’ve pinpointed?
JK: There’s a market for us, yes. We have our own driver development program; when you look at a couple of our juniors, they mostly come out of the formula world. Michael Christensen did two years in GP3, then went into our driver development program, and now he’s a works driver. He tested our LMP1 car. If you’re in GP3 or Formula 3, you’re already kind of a professional. You know what needs to be done to race; those series are very intense.
Q: What does it mean for Supercup to have two U.S. races as opposed to standard one on a weekend?
JK: If we go abroad, overseas, we need to have two races. It’s a huge investment we take, logistically, so it makes sense. Having two races for the season final is huge, since most of the time we have the title decision in the last race.
Q: What were your impressions of Americans Sean Johnston and Connor De Phillippi this season?
JK: Sean Johnston did this a very good way. He moved to Germany. He stays with his racing team, he works with the car, he learns German, and his German is perfect. He’s improved a lot. It’s absolutely the right approach. That’s the same with Connor. It’s very difficult if they live in the U.S. and race in Europe. If they do it, they do it properly (Note: De Phillippi has since been retained as an official Porsche Junior for a second straight season –Ed.)
Q: Has having celebrity/guest drivers such as Patrick Dempsey race in the championship help raise the series’ profile?
JK: Absolutely, it improves it overall. Dempsey raced in Hockenheim for us. The media value he created was large, and he’s great for the series as he is a great person who perfectly fits in.
Q: When Supercup drivers come to America, why is it they are often “under-the-radar” or not recognized?
JK: It’s always tough for them. We found that out with our (previous) juniors, Klaus Bachler and Michael Christensen. They are our junior drivers, yet the Americans said when they first arrived “we’ve never heard of them.” Still, it worked well. At this level, we’re providing them a big step forward. American teams now understand the potential of our Supercup drivers and what they can bring to the team.
Q: Do you see the potential to expand outside more than Europe and the U.S.?
JK: It was always a case to run at all the European events, and to have one overseas event is OK. But we don’t want to be a global worldwide race series. You have to consider the costs and budgets. To do more events outside Europe adds costs for logistics. The cost efficiency is very important for us.
Q: Is cost a factor why drivers go to Supercup instead of single-seaters?
JK: Formula drivers, when you talk to them, in the end they have to decide what they want to do. It’s a dream of almost every racing driver to go to Formula One. That’s the fact. But you need to be realistic sometimes, and that’s the time to move to GT racing. It depends on your personal goal, but don’t go into GT racing if F1 is your goal.
Q: What’s the ultimate goal of Supercup and its drivers?
JK: We want to show the drivers who don’t make it to Formula One that this is a good option. When you look at the guys coming out of a one-make cup, there’s a lot of drivers who are not professional drivers. But here it’s all about the driver. There is no BoP. We can see which drivers have the capabilities.