In a bid to keep fans and drivers entertained during the quarantine period, the FIA has introduced a host of virtual races for their respective series. Formula E is no different with their “Race at Home Challenge”, involving all their drivers in the as a temporary replacement of the suspended 2019-2020 Formula E season. Although no points or prize money are offered for the championship, it is still taken seriously as it is an official series.
The entire series recently came under scrutiny when one of the most prominent teams of Formula E, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, dismissed their driver Daniel Abt, after he allegedly cheated in the fifth race of the virtual series. Abt, whose family owned the team before becoming Audi’s factory team, got pro sim racer Lorenz “Lozbert” Hörzing to take his place in the race.
The idea came about as a prank on the other drivers when Abt, who is known for his vlogging on YouTube and Twitch, steamed his live practice session while interacting with professional sim racers. Come race day, Hörzing took Abt’s place in the race and provided an entertaining race. Other drivers grew suspicious as Abt didn’t appear in the post-race interview, and his performance was uncharacteristically quicker than previous races. The driver finished an impressive third after crashing with lead driver Stoffel Vandoorne.
After organisers investigated the claim and found out that Abt wasn’t racing from his usual IP address, he immediately came clean on what had transpired, stating that it was meant as a prank on the other drivers to create content for his social media. Abt goes on to say that Hörzing was never paid for his services and intended to reveal this hoax in a video.
Abt was hit with a €10,000 fine from Formula E, which he was instructed to donate to a charity. Moreover, he had all his points from previous races in the series nullified, and he has been banned from further participation in the series.
Abt issued a statement via video on his YouTube channel explaining that he and Hörzing wanted to document it and create a funny story for the fans with it. He goes on to add that it was never the intention to “get a result and keep quiet about it later on just to make me look better.”
In his statement, Abt continued, “…the media picked it up and immediately portrayed me as a cheater without giving me the chance to personally address the issue and explain what really happened. I can understand that we took it too far with our idea. In retrospect, we did not think about the seriousness and consequences of this and made an enormous mistake. I stand by my mistake and accept the consequences for what I’ve done and want to emphasise that I’m relieved that the sim racings guys haven’t been dragged into the scandal too much. It’s my responsibility, and I’ll bear it.”
Abt apologised to his friends, family, partners, Audi and Formula E after Audi officially revealed that they will be terminating their partnership with him.
Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler issued a statement via Formula E that Daniel Abt would be suspended with “immediate effect”. You may be wondering why was there such a harsh reaction to what is essentially just a game. Well, in that statement, the carmaker from Ingolstadt explained that Abt “made a conscious decision to go against the rules” of the competition.
“We are thankful for our time together and look back on it proudly. However, integrity, transparency and consistent compliance with applicable rules, especially with regards to the past, are top priorities for us at Audi.
“We stand by our culture of tolerating mistakes. However, the incidents that took place during the “Race at Home Challenge” sim racing series were not a mistake, but a conscious decision to go against the rules. That is what makes the big difference for us. Therefore, unfortunately, we had no other alternative than suspending Daniel Abt.” the statement revealed.
Abt is one of the most experienced driver’s in Formula E, and who has been driving for the team since its inception in 2014. So it’s no wonder that the announcement of his termination took the series, and definitely the motorsports community by surprise. It just goes to show that integrity is of utmost importance in any professional industry, and even the light-hearted nature of the rule breach, is still a rule breach, and no one is an exception.