Abt says he didn’t intend to keep ‘ringer’ a secret and confirms exit from Audi

Formula E

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Daniel Abt has explained why he arranged for a simracer to take his place in last weekend’s Formula E Race at Home event.

Audi announced earlier today it has suspended Abt over what happened in the series, which raises funds for UNICEF. Abt confirmed he will no longer drive for the team in Formula E.

In a lengthy video posted on social media, Abt admitted he had “made a huge mistake” by arranging to have someone else drive his car after discussing the idea in a live stream on Twitch.

“The idea came up that it would be a funny move if a simracer basically drove for me to show the other, real drivers what he is capable of and use the chance to drive against them,” Abt explained. “We wanted to document it and create a funny story for the fans with it.”

Abt insisted it “was never my intention to let another driver drive for me to get a result and keep quiet about it later on just to make me look better”. He stressed they always intended to come clean about the plan and that neither he nor the simracer stood to gain from it.

“These points, this result, is irrelevant to me, personally,” said Abt. “It has no impact in any way. I’m not getting any money for it. Nothing of the sort. The sim racer hasn’t received any money from me either.”

“When we did the stream on Saturday and I ‘drove’ this race, which of course I did not, we wanted to act as if I was actually driving to unwind it afterwards,” he continued. “It has never been our intention to lie to you.

“I believe that by already openly communication the idea live on stream and there were 1,000 people watching us talk about it, I think that in itself shows that it was not about withholding anything because it simply is not personally important to me.”

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Stoffel Vandoorne was among those who realised Abt’s car was being controlled by someone else.

“The other drivers reacted to it of course and realised that there was something odd,” said Abt. “I was aware of that.

“It had never been my will or idea to keep this secret from them. We even texted in WhatsApp groups and I gave some hints. I asked them what would be a good time to land in the top five. They responded and the young simracer did achieve this time, he did this race and finished third place.

“That you could check IP addresses and the boy is from Austria, I was aware of that too, we didn’t hide that by using a VPN [virtual private network] account. We consciously left it the way it was because we didn’t have the intention that this wouldn’t be recognised.

“It was the same thing with the interview with the top three after the race, where I consciously didn’t participate, because I didn’t want to do this interview as I thought it would be wrong.”

Abt said he made a donation of €10,000 to a charity of his choice, Allgauer Werkstatten, at the behest of Formula E.

“Then it got to the media. They received the topic and basically immediately displayed me as a cheater without giving me the chance to personally talk about it, to maybe tell them what really happened.

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“I can understand that we went too far with this idea. When looking back, we did not think enough about the seriousness of the consequences of the situation. We made a huge mistake there. I stand by this mistake. I accept it and I will carry all the consequences for what I have done.

“I want to emphasise that I am glad that the simracing guys weren’t drawn into this and were relatively left alone by the media in comparison to me.”

The widespread coverage of the incident led to his dismissal by Audi, said Abt. “As this topic has become so extreme in the media and has been talked about from A-Z this virtual [error] of mine has real consequences for me.

“Today I was informed in a conversation with Audi that our ways will split from now on. We won’t be racing in Formula E anymore and the co-operation has ended.”

“It is a pain which I have never felt in this way in my life,” he said. “It was extremely important to me to take the chance here and now to tell you how it was and what happened and to simultaneously apologise to my family, to my friends, to Audi, to my partners, to Formula E, to UNICEF and of course to all fans who have supported me over the years with all of my heart.”

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Video: Abt’s statement

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 33 comments on “Abt says he didn’t intend to keep ‘ringer’ a secret and confirms exit from Audi”

    1. Well, it’s good that he adresses this and explains his view. But still, how could he not have seen that his employer, who seems to have pushed their drivers to take part – Abt clearly did not seem te be enjoying it for the fun of it, rather seems he had to be talked into it – and their sponsors, would look kind upon this “joke”.

      While the penalty might seem harsh, and who knows if it is not a usefull exuse to part ways now, when they were planning to do so anyway (a possibility, certainly not something that has to be the case), to have your driver do this behind your back as an employer is pretty clearly not looked upon favorably by a company like Audi.

      1. @bascb While I wouldn’t suggest Audi has done this just to deflect from Dieselgate – a way, way bigger scandal which is back in the headlines this week – I think it has to be seen in the context of it, and that they really don’t need anything else that tarnishes their reputation at the moment.

        1. Yeah, that is a VERY good point @keithcollantine. The company has all reason to clearly show they are not looking away from that sort of stuff especially this week.

          1. Looking this as a thing of its own I think Audi is here to blame. Yes it was a race for charity and not participating under own name is something to think twice. Audi still fired their own driver for a virtual race which isn’t same as real life racing.

            I think Audi puts itself in a bad light and Abt isn’t to blame for this.

            1. And if he didn’t pull such a stupid “joke”, and it was stupid, he would still have a job. So no, by definition, he’s to blame.

            2. That is nonsense @qeki, @invisiblekid. This was officially endorsed by the FE series, the official promotor. And by its teams who clearly cooperated to get a full field of drivers for the whole series (compare that with the way the F1 e-races were/are organized and promoted).

              Abt baulked at attending an official event to promote the racing series for his Audi team. He was supposed to be doing his job, this was not just them having a fun game. Just look at what happens when you send a buddy over to do your job. I doubt your employer will like it. And a lot less so when that job includes public appearances.

            3. sorry, @invisiblekid, that post made it sound as if I meant to say your post is nonsense, but it was rather reacting to the post above that, I included you to keep us all “in the loop”

            4. The issue is that the donors, who were acting on the assumption that Abt and others were acting in good faith, might well feel aggrieved and perhaps even feel they were tricked into donating to this event. In that sense, it raises a number of ethical and legal questions about his conduct that aren’t dismissed by simply going “oh, it was just a game”.

      2. If any cheater could say – oh, look, i was just getting fun.

        1. @bascb Yes he was having fun maybe at the wrong place and eventhough it was an official race it is the internet. If the line is there that it was officially promoted by FE. Then Abt did wrong but in the end penalty was too harsh.

    2. It wasnt me, it was the media. Oh dear.

      I sure you came clean to Audi very quickly about your joke, and yet here we are.

    3. Firing a professional driver of real cars for (not) playing a video game is the dumbest thing I’ve heard.
      How are these top level drivers supposed to take sim racing. It’s a joke, or at best a bit of fun and training. It’s hardly a serious endeavour for them.
      I suspect Audi wanted to be rid of him anyway. How utterly ridiculous.

      1. From what others have said, this isn’t just about using an unauthorised substitute driver, it is also about how this looks when Audi’s name is being dragged through the mud because of illegal software that was installed into the engine management systems in their cars. Maybe Audi did want to get rid of him, but they couldn’t without the threat of litigation until he gave them an excuse to use one of their “cop out” clauses in his contract.

      2. There are a million cases of a person being fired/dropped for doing stupid things when representing a company and a big one at that. Why he thought everyone would go “Ha what a funny joke, gosh Daniel, your a funny guy, you sure got us with that one!”

        This wasn’t saying THAT word between two white guys, but this wasn’t a joke worth doing. Showing a pro sim driver can come third in a sim race with pro drivers, to anyone but a noob is obvious, a lot.

        So your left with an Audi employee who lied to everyone participating and watching.

        Was it bad enough to get the sack? I dunno, but the clothheadedness of doing this, knowing what has gone before, that a clear overtake even resulted in people spitting out their dummies? It was a colossally dumb thing to do.

    4. This is a joke. Firing someone over a Video game? These drivers are entertaining fans during this pandemic by taking part in these weekly online Video games. Audi is being ridiculous

      1. He wasn’t fired over a video game, he was fired because he was employed to represent Audi and then chose to send a substitute without contacting his employer.

        1. High and mighty Audi.
          I owned one of the polluting vw’s for years telling people how clean burning it was.
          But apparently they’ve come to their senses and are showing the world how righteous they are.
          Way to kill a pandemic relief for us Audi.
          Well done

    5. Why have Audi left this to Abt himself to explain??

    6. If it quacks like a cheater
      looks like a cheater
      drives like a cheater
      its an Abt.

      1. Most fans had not heard of Daniel Abt before, but will now always think of him as a cheat.

      2. It is more like actual legal fraud at this point. It would be cheating if he had actually done something on the track which is against the rules. It is also a breach of his contract both with audi and formula e. To have someone compete in your name, in your place and pretending to be you is worse than doping.

    7. Again just like the NASCAR driver who lost real life sponsors through something he did in an e race I think the teams/sponsors etc are just using this opportunity to get rid of people they don’t want.

      Abt never seemed the best driver and Audi were probably only keeping him in the team because of the family ties. This was a good excuse to get rid of him.

      I don’t agree with it and I think the punishment is way over the top. If I was a racing driver I’d be pulling out of all e races with immediate effect. There’s nothing to gain and all to lose from these events.

      I’m also worried about what this means in the future for drivers like Norris, Albon, Russell etc who have a very open social media presence. It’s so cool seeing drivers like him being so open and joking around. It would be a shame if the overzealous HR teams killed this.

      1. So you think teams are banking on their not favourite driver to some something stupid just so they can sack them?

        Well its working I guess.

        Drivers in an official race sim representing their employer can at least take it seriously. If someone did this in an official pro tournament would have what happen to him?

        Get credited for making a riotous joke?
        Get a “tsk ya got us?”
        Kicked out the tournament?

      2. @crooky369 Drivers like Norris, Albon, and Russell are professionally on a higher level: they understand how to reciprocate the support of their sponsors, and have the moral compasses not to get in such compromising positions. I think that they will continue with virtual racing and social media because they understand how much they have too gain by doing so.

    8. Didn’t the Diesel Gate company retained Wolfgang Ulrich’s position even after the “Push him out” case? Now gonna play unblemished or something with that overreaction? What a joke.

    9. Abt should have revealed his “joke” immediately after the race if he felt his deception was so unimportant. Instead, he went for fake internet points. As the kids say: play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

    10. pastaman (@)
      27th May 2020, 3:20

      Watch Josef Newgarden’s streams to see how to behave like a courteous, professional driver who understands the big picture of representing a major brand while online. The internet brings out the worst in people when they (seemingly) have no fear of repercussions. After seeing how many other drivers were punished/penalized for their online presence before this, there is really no excuse anymore for this behavior. The joke’s on you, Daniel.

    11. I disagree with most people here. It doesn’t matter if it was a video-game or a real race, his contract will have many requirements regarding marketing, advertising and Audi sanctioned activities. He was representing his employer in an official event and he committed gross misconduct.

    12. Let’s get something clear – the virtual formula E series has been progressively more of a joke/bit of fun since the first race. The driving standards, net code of the game, etc. are way below a ‘serious’ e sports event, and I think the drivers are increasingly thinking that too.

      There is a huge difference between intending to commit fraud without being caught, and doing something as a prank or stunt. The fact he broadcast his plans on a twitch stream should be enough to know he never planned on keeping it a secret.

      I would have thought an apology for offending people who were offended would have been enough. There’s always haters out there with a voice, and the media being so desperate for something to promote people’s hate towards seems increasingly evident with how several events recently have been covered.

      If Audi or any Formula E sponsors are more offended by his actions than the state of the e series driving and general quality they need to re-evaluate what they think is important! If that series was run to the league rules I raced with in the past there’d be about 4 people in the next race. Some e sports is taken very seriously, and some isn’t, and I’d definitely consider this the latter.

    13. Sacked for giving the video game controller to someone else.

      Let that sink in.

      Welcome to 2020. Where do I get off?

      1. Magnus Rubensson (@)
        27th May 2020, 19:31

        Come to 1967! :)
        Search for “Grand Prix Legends Honda impossible dream” on YouTube
        (it’s a short GPL movie made in 2006. Just 2:36 minutes. YTchannel name: UKTopGun)

        The world will once again have meaning.

    14. if mr ulrich was around he’d say “schieb ihn raus!!!!”

      he was in this event on a professional capacity, he needs to adhere to certain standards. if this was some new age tech company he may be able to get away with it, but it’s a large German corporate tarnished by the diesel scandal. one can understand if the top guys there really don’t have a sense of humour.

      1. John Ballantyne
        27th May 2020, 11:07

        Good heavens! You’d think this was real!

    Comments are closed.