In what might be the most baffling story this week, The Race broke the news that Formula E driver Daniel Abt has been fired from the Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler Formula E team as a result of using a ringer during round five of the Formula E Race at Home Challenge. Yes, you read that right – that’s his name in the team name. Ouch.
Suspicions arose from other drivers during the virtual Berlin e-Prix when Abt qualified second for the race, far exceeding his previous records in the virtual races. Abt’s video feed on the pre-race driver round-up also weirdly had his face concealed by what appears to be a microphone.
His personal Twitch stream, which usually runs in parallel to the main Formula E stream, was also offline – further adding to the whole impression.
Later in his the race, the #66 car supposedly driven by Abt got into messy battle with Mercedes EQ driver and pole sitter Stoffel Vandoorne, prompting the latter to question if Abt was really at the wheels. “Really not happy here because that was not Daniel driving the car himself, and he messed up everything. Really ridiculous,” he said on his Twitch stream after the race.
After the race, officials cross-checked the IP addresses of the competitors, and confirmed that their suspicions were indeed true – Abt employed professional sim racer Lorenz Hoerzing – who races in the companion Formula E Challenge Grid – to impersonate him during the race.
As a result, Abt was disqualified from the race itself, and ordered to make a EUR10,000 “compulsory donation” to charity. Hoerzing on the other hand was banned from the series. However, it seems like the team thought that the punishment was not enough.
In a statement released yesterday, Audi Sport said: “Daniel Abt did not drive his car in qualifying and the race at the fifth event of the Race at Home Challenge on May 23 himself, but let a professional Sim-Racer do so. He directly apologised for this on the following day and accepted the disqualification.
“Integrity, transparency and consistent compliance with applicable rules are top priorities for Audi – this applies to all activities the brand is involved in without exception. For this reason, Audi Sport has decided to suspend Daniel Abt with immediate effect.”
Daniel Abt was not the first driver to receive real-world repercussions due to actions in the virtual world. As we reported previously, Nascar driver Bubba Wallace was also dropped from a sponsorship deal for not taking the race seriously enough.