Perhaps predictably, we have reached the point in this temporary era of virtual racing when drivers are turning to "outside help," as Daniel Abt called it, to perform better in esports races. And Formula E and Audi are not happy about it.
Abt, who races for Audi in the Formula E series that remains on hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic, was disqualified from Saturday's virtual race for having pro gamer Lorenz Hoerzing race for him, according to Reuters. Abt, 27, also was ordered to donate 10,000 Euros (almost $11,000) to charity.
"I did not take it as seriously as I should have," Abt said. "I am especially sorry about this because I know how much work has gone into this project on the part of the Formula E organization. I am aware that my offense has a bitter aftertaste but it was never meant with any bad intention."
Audi on Tuesday issued a statement saying it had suspended Abt over the matter.
"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," the statement read, via ESPN. "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."
Sunday's virtual race was the fifth in what Formula E is calling the Race at Home Challenge, a virtual series FE is using to bridge the gap to the resumption of live racing during the pandemic. It's not unlike the virtual series NASCAR implemented before it returned to live racing a little more than a week ago.
According to Reuters, other drivers became suspicious during Saturday's virtual race when Abt was performing better than usual. The report also notes that "the face of the driver purporting to be Abt was hidden by some equipment while his Twitch stream stopped working."
Said driver Jean-Eric Vergne during the race: "Please ask Daniel Abt to put his Zoom next time he’s driving, because like (fellow driver) Stoffel (Vandoorne) said I’m pretty sure he wasn’t in."
Fortunately, at least one competitor was able to recognize the humor in all of this.
"It’s just a game guys," said Antonio Felix da Costa. "We all know Daniel as a fun guy and a joker."